Russia replaces America as the power player in the Middle East

Introduction — March 8, 2018

Russian navy launches cruise missiles at Islamic State militants in Aleppo, Syria. Click to enlarge

Russian navy launches cruise missiles at Islamic State militants in Aleppo, Syria. Click to enlarge

We have to differ with the following article on one key point. While Russia does indeed appear to have eclipsed the U.S. as the “go to” power in the Middle East, this hasn’t happened through diplomacy alone, as the writer suggests.
Diplomacy may have played a part but to ensure diplomatic success negotiations need to be conducted from a position of strength.
Waning U.S. influence in the region and Moscow’s growing eminence are part of a wider trend, which has been augmented by one crucial factor. Pivotal to this was Russia’s military intervention in Syria in 2015.
In little more than two years Russia and its allies soundly defeated the Sunni militants. Something the U.S. and its allies had seemed unable to do. Although the U.S. “intervened” in Syria more than a year before the results of its military operations were nothing like as decisive as those achieved by the Russians.
Whether that was because the U.S. and its allies were also covertly backing ISIS is debatable but America’s campaign seemed half-hearted and its results inconclusive, at best.
In contrast, Russia’s intervention enhanced its reputation as a reliable ally; rescuing President Assad when the odds were against him and cementing his position after regime change in Syria seemed almost inevitable. In addition, the intervention also allowed Russia to display a prowess with military technology that few Western “experts” had even suspected.
That element alone undoubtedly made a bigger impression on the region’s leaders than any perceived U.S. diplomatic deficiencies.
What the following does highlight however, is that after a couple of decades calling the shots in the Middle East America’s influence is now beginning to decline.
Despite having amassed more sophisticated military hardware than any other nation the U.S. lacks a strong martial spirit to go with it. As witness Vietnam and Iraq or the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan.
That’s why America’s claimed successes in the latter two campaigns are debatable and why its recent military interventions have been nowhere near as clear-cut and decisive as Russia’s recent Syrian campaign.
Russian troops on 'exercises' near the border with Ukraine in 2014. Click to enlarge

Russian troops on ‘exercises’ near the border with Ukraine in 2014. Click to enlarge

In contrast to Russia’s lean, mean fighting machine that was on display in Syria, America’s military looks overweight and overrated. Like a boxer who’s past his prime the U.S. is increasingly relying on bluff and bravado, and the Middle East’s leaders can now see this.
Here I’m reminded of an old piece Russian folklore that some regard as prophecy. Ancient Slavic folklore told of three great empires that would dominate the world. The first would sit upon the Tiber and obviously refers to the Roman Empire. The second would be on the banks of the Thames and clearly alludes to the British Empire.
While the third and final global empire would be centred in Moscow.
After no more than a couple of decades, America’s time as the foremost global power may be coming to an end. At least in its present national incarnation, so to speak.
In its place, I would suggest that we are witnessing the emergence of a REAL world power that will ultimately be of far greater magnitude; a world power that will span centuries, not decades, and will totally eclipse America’s brief time at the forefront of world affairs.
It’s no coincidence that Christian mystic and teacher Rudolf Steiner and America’s “Sleeping prophet” Edgar Cayce both foretold of Russia’s powerful and positive role in the centuries to come.
Forget the much-vaunted “New American Century”. The Neocons backed the wrong horse in that race. The key power in the coming century and beyond will be Russia. Ed.

Russia replaces America as the power player in the Middle East

Jessica Mathews — The Hill March 6, 2018

The sorry position of the United States in the Middle East today ought to be sending President Trump a powerful message. The region bristles with American air and naval bases and major deployments in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, among others, manned by 55,000 troops and civilians, and rising contingents in the war zones of Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. Despite all this military strength, the “go to” power in the region today is Russia.

Since Russian President Putin saved Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime from collapse, he has established working relations with every major power in the Middle East, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran and Turkey, though several of them fiercely oppose what he is doing in Syria. Moscow has worked successful deals with Saudi Arabia to prop up international oil prices. Its relations with Israel have never been closer, notwithstanding Russia’s having greatly strengthened Iran in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin have overcome the tension of fighting on opposite sides in Syria, and of Turkey’s NATO membership, to agree on Ankara’s purchase of Russian air defense missiles and a Russian nuclear reactor. Egyptian President Fattah Al Sisi, like Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has made multiple pilgrimages to Moscow, and now Egypt and Russia have signed a draft agreement giving Moscow access to Egyptian airspace and possibly bases. Moscow has agreed to sell Egypt the same advanced missile system Turkey is buying and to build Egypt’s first nuclear reactor.

Except in Syria, all of this has been achieved through diplomacy. In the space of a few years, Putin has ended decades of Russian irrelevance in the Middle East and built a stronger position than the Soviet Union enjoyed 40 years ago. There is nothing mysterious about how he’s done it. Putin understands the power of diplomacy. You can bet there are no unfilled Russian ambassadorships in countries that matter to Moscow as there is today, almost unbelievably, vacant American posts in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and of course, Iran, where we have no embassy.

Putin has been immeasurably helped by the conviction of American decline that prevails throughout the region. As much perception as it is reality, the belief took root in the early Obama years and has grown steadily since. What the president ought to notice is that no amount of military presence makes the slightest dent in it.

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