Russia’s recent intervention in Syria has significantly escalated tensions between Moscow and Washington. And according to American media outlets, U.S. President Barack Obama still doesn’t know how to respond to Russia’s growing presence in the region.
This month, Russia has been sending its advisors and military equipment to Syria to provide the Bashar al-Assad regime with means to fight ISIS. The U.S., meanwhile, wants the Syrian government removed from power, but carries out airstrikes against ISIS at the same time.
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Leaders of ISIS have repeatedly said that their goal is to expel Christian Orthodoxy minority from the Middle East, particularly from Syria. Another goal is to wipe Alawites off the face of the earth.
As for Christians, ISIS has successfully achieved its goal. There are no Christians in combat areas any more: they either fled or were killed.
As for the remaining nearly 6 million of Alawites in Syria, they have two options: either get to Europe through hell and seek shelter as refugees or take weapons and fight against ISIS.
If the Syrian army is defeated by ISIS, Alawites will face genocide, Lebanon will become a new territory for bloodshed, while the entire Middle East could get involved in the military conflict.
The U.S. is aware of such a scenario, but their actions against ISIS are still limited to airstrikes. The airstrikes have proven themselves extremely ineffective, as they spread anti-American sentiment among the civilian population in the region. Washington also closes its eyes to the fact that ISIS according to many accounts gets military support from a NATO member state – Turkey.
The U.S. is interested in the defeat of the Assad regime by ISIS. Thus, the Americans do not rule out the possibility of a genocide in Syria, after which they would get involved in a ‘more serious’ military confrontation against ISIS.
Russia wants to be the new master of Middle East
Russia, meanwhile, chases its own interests in the region. Moscow slowly, but effectively taking advantage of the lack of Washington’s strategy on Syria. Moscow is looking for ways to fill the vacuum the U.S. left behind in order to influence countries in the Middle East, which have lost complete or partial support from the U.S.
Take Egypt for example, which feels abandoned by the US after its confused response to the “Arab Spring”. The country has been seeking closer ties with Russia under the regime of the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Moscow delivers weapons for the Egyptian army and helps it fight against jihadist terrorist groups. Additionally, Russia plans to build Egypt’s first-ever atomic power plant.
With plans to spread its influence all over the Middle East as well as in the whole world, the Kremlin maintains warm ties with Arab states of the Persian gulf, including Saudi Arabia, to persuade them to take Moscow’s stance on Syria.
Since the relations between the U.S. and Russia deteriorated, Moscow has been visited by a number of leaders of Middle East countries, including the king of Jordan Abdullah II, who is considered to be one of the major U.S. allies in the region.
During his visit to Moscow, Abdullah II acknowledged Russia’s significance in the Middle East, saying that the Syrian crisis must be settled as soon as possible and that Russia plays an important role in uniting forces of Syrian opposition to bring them to a peaceful dialogue with the Syrian government.
U.S. can’t be trusted, but we can – Russia’s message
The U.S., meanwhile, is shifting the center of its influence from Europe and the Middle East to Southeast Asia. Besides, the U.S. has repeatedly expressed its willingness to reduce the number of international conflicts it has to take a direct military part of.
However, U.S. efforts in the Middle East have been perceived as rather weak lately. One of the examples is when the U.S. turned away from its most loyal ally in the Middle East – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Another example would be U.S. efforts to reach the nuclear deal with Iran ‘at all costs’.
Russia, on the other hand, wants to create an image around itself that it doesn’t ‘betray’ its allies. Moscow’s intentions to send military equipment into Syria is the indication that the Kremlin is willing to do anything to save the Assad regime.
However, it’s not Assad’s fate that Moscow is concerned about, it’s sending a clear message to the world that Russia, unlike the U.S., can be trusted.
In this case, Russian and Iranian interests align. Teheran and Moscow are equally interested in saving the Assad regime from death. For Iran, the Assad regime is a bridge between Tehran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Russia is the most important player in the Middle East
Right after the Iranian nuclear deal was reached, Russia invited Iranian foreign minister to Moscow. Thus, Russia is not going to wait for the formal cancellation of sanctions imposed against Iran for its nuclear enrichments projects, and plans to reach arms deals worth billions of dollars.
Russia and Iran have basically agreed to coordinate their actions in Syria, which means Syrian Civil War will go on. Iran and Russia are equally interested in the increase of oil prices on the global market. They are trying to put pressure on Saudi Arabia, which floods the market with cheap oil.
Israel, another major player in the Middle East, meanwhile, is acting in multiple directions at the same time. In November, Israel will hold talks with the U.S. about the increase of military aid and the delivery of advanced weaponry as ‘compensation’ for the Iranian nuclear deal.
As for Russia, Israel is trying to persuade Moscow to cut down on military supplies to Tehran, while keeping close ties with the Kremlin. But one thing is clear: Russia is becoming a more important player in the Middle East.