Moscow's Growing Control over the Middle East

(Times of Israel) Raphael Ahren - Last week, Russian troops arrived at military bases in northern Syria that the American army had left just days earlier, in what might be regarded as a handover of regional hegemony. Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, head of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, noted the main reasons that "motivated Russian President Vladimir Putin to get involved in the Middle East." They included making Russia an influential power and allowing it to control ports and air bases, to try out new Russian weapons, to save its Syrian ally Bashar Assad, and to fight jihadists in Syria and not in the Caucasus. Yadlin noted that "All pairs of enemies in the Middle East enjoy reasonably good ties with Russia: Saudi Arabia and Iran, Israel and the Palestinians, the Kurds and the Turks, Israel and Iran, Egypt and Turkey." Russia should not be seen as a regional hegemon, Yadlin stressed. Rather, that title should be shared by Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And even the Americans still have more forces in the Middle East than the Russians. "The Russian success stems from their ability to use very few forces with determination and rules of engagement that only they can allow themselves, with a veto at the UN Security Council and a patriotic audience at home." Israel must come to terms with the fact that the balance of power in the Middle East has fundamentally changed, warned Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. "We have relied for the last 45 years on a Pax Americana that no longer exists. I am not saying that the U.S. won't come to our assistance [in case of war] but we can't be certain of it anymore. We have to internalize that that's the situation." The U.S. is an ally; Russia is not, Oren stressed. "It's useless for us to pretend that Russia is going to be an ally, but we don't have to make them enemies either. We can reach a modus vivendi with them."

2019-10-22 00:00:00

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