Why Middle Eastern Leaders Are Talking to Putin

(Politico) Dennis Ross - America has 35,000 troops and hundreds of aircraft in the Middle East today, the Russians roughly 2,000 troops and perhaps 50 aircraft, yet Middle Eastern leaders are making pilgrimages to Moscow these days, not rushing to Washington. Why? Because perceptions matter more than mere power. Objectively, Russia is declining economically and low oil prices spell increasing financial troubles. But the Russians are seen as willing to use power to affect the balance of power in the region, and the U.S. is not. In the aftermath of the nuclear deal, Iran's behavior in the region has been more aggressive, not less so, with regular Iranian forces joining the Revolutionary Guard now deployed to Syria, wider use of Shiite militias, arms smuggling into Bahrain and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, and ballistic missile tests. The Arab Gulf states fear growing Iranian strength and are convinced that the administration is ready to acquiesce in Iran's pursuit of regional hegemony. The writer is a long-time U.S. Mideast negotiator.

2016-05-10 00:00:00

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