The Great Game Comes to Syria

(OZY) John McLaughlin - Nature abhors a vacuum. Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly sensed a big power void in Syria. Although the Islamic State has rampaged through Iraq, its headquarters is in Syria. Putin has sent to Syria a substantial force of tanks, armored personnel carriers, air defense systems and upward of two dozen combat aircraft over the past several weeks. Russia is also building enough housing for 2,000 people. Gaining a pivotal role in the Middle East would be an important way station on the road to Putin's overarching goal - restoring Russia to great-power status. Assad has been Russia's only real ally in the region. But Assad is weakening and now controls only about a sixth of the country. Russia hopes not only to increase Assad's chances of surviving but also to be in a position to influence the succession if he does not. Putin genuinely wants to defeat the Islamic State. Russia says 2,400 of its nationals are fighting with IS, many from Russia's Caucasus region, which has a large Muslim population and hosts a number of separatist movements. There could be scope for cooperation between Russia and the West, working first to destroy the Islamic State and then deciding what to do about the Assad regime. Putin is forcing the U.S. to work with him and ensuring that he will have a large voice in determining the future of the Middle Eastern capital that means the most to Russia. The author was acting director and deputy director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004 and now teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

2015-09-29 00:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive