After nearly a month of conducting daily air strikes, Russia is beginning to reveal its political calculations and strategic intent in Syria. A new round of talks in Vienna on a political solution for Syrian conflict is being conducted in which Russia is about to play a major role. There is a growing sense in Moscow, and among diplomats and politicians in some countries in the Middle East and the West, that Russia has a better chance than most to combine its increased influence over Assad with its military muscle in Syria’s skies to broker a deal to end the Syrian conflict. Hard reality is that right now Russia has more chances than any other country to settle the political process for Syrian conflict. But it’s not about Syria only Russia has big ambitions in whole Middle East and entering into the Syrian bloody war on the side of Bashar Al Assad was just a small part in Russia’s new grand strategy for Middle East. Since long Russia was frustrated with America’s strategic dominance over the region. To establish Kremlin also as a potent force in the region President Putin choose Syrian theatre to show his muscles.
The Obama administration has been weak and passive in the face of Russian intervention, basically allowing Russia to set the terms of proposed solution. Now Russia step by step is increasing its influence in the whole region by forging alliance with every important player in the regional arena. Let’s have a look at some recent alliances Russian have made in the region.
Israel– Israel has discovered Russia and its growing sphere of influence in the region and that realization is what sent Netanyahu to Putin a month ago and brought about the visits of high ranking Russian army officers to Israel. It looks as though Israel does not want to be left outside the equation now that Russia is becoming increasingly involved in Syria, especially since Iran is solidly placed on the other side of the equation. That’s why Israelis have set up a joint mechanism with Russian.
Iraq- Iraqi government apparently believing it wasn’t receiving adequate assistance from the United States and European Union to ward off the Sunni Islamic State (ISIS). Has turned to Moscow for support. Now Iraq is receiving Russian assistance under an intelligence and security cooperation agreement.
Egypt– The Arab world’s most populous country, is actually supporting Russia’s actions, notwithstanding the fact that Saudi Arabia is Egypt’s top paymaster. The reality is that, although most Arabs don’t like what Russia is doing in their region, they do admire the way Mr Putin seems able to pinprick the Americans. Egypt has sought Russian military assistance after being turned down by United States.
Iran– Syria civil war has dramatically improved ties between Russia and Iran. It could laid a foundation stone of Russian-Iranian lasting ties in the region. Tehran also sees Moscow’s resurgence as an opportunity to ensure its own lasting influence in the region. Iran has been at odds with Sunni Saudi Arabia, which along with other Arab countries, is concerned about Shite’s Iran outreach.
But by returning with military force in the region, Russia has acquired some Middle Eastern enemies as well. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are furious with Mr Putin, largely because Russia’s intervention now complicates both these countries’ strategic objectives in the region. But Turkey needs Russia more than Russia needs Turkey, and Mr Erdogan is only too aware that all the Russians need to do is to start supporting the Kurds in Syria to make Turkey’s strategic situation a misery. The Saudis have also been muted in their criticism, because they too hope for an accommodation with Russia. So in that way Russian have neutralise its critics in the region. But one important thing which Russians have overlooked in this power play is that by entering the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts with its own troops and advisers, Russia is adding fuel to the lure of jihadism rather than tamping it. Dozens of Saudi clerics are already reportly issuing edicts for Sunni to fulfil jihad, a pillar of Islam, by fighting not only Alawites and Shiites but Russians as heathens just as they did successfully in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Russians should not desire the repeat of Afghan jihad in which it bleeded a lot and left the Afghanistan in disgrace.
By Manish Rai