How the Middle East Became Russia's Game, Not America's
The National Interest Online
Reaction in the United States generally follows one of three predictable patterns: the “let them handle the problem if they want it” approach, which builds on the “America First” mindset; the “Russia is going to fail” prediction, which argues that the United States need not worry, because Moscow can’t get the job done; or the moralizing denunciations of any dealing with the butcher of Damascus. What all three of these approaches share in common is a recognition that the United States is not willing to invest serious skin in the Syrian endgame other than tinkering at the margins. What is more critical, however, is that the actors upon whom so much of U.S. policy in the past rested are changing their approach—and allegiance.
Russia’s efforts may yet fail—the naysayers in the United States are not wrong to point out the many challenges—but Russia still gains from having tried. More importantly, the Sochi summit is confirmation that a new alignment is shaping up in the region.
Putin's plan to end Syrian war strengthens Russian influence in the Middle East
Russian President Vladimir Putin briefed President Trump by phone Tuesday on Moscow’s plans for ending Syria’s 6-year-old civil war, a development that likely will keep U.S. foe Bashar Assad in power in Damascus and underscores Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East.
The Kremlin said Mr. Putin stressed the need to keep Syria’s “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity intact” and that Mr. Assad favors new presidential and parliamentary elections.
Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters before flying to Florida for Thanksgiving, didn’t answer questions about Mr. Assad’s fate but said the nearly 90-minute call with Mr. Putin was “great.”
“We’re talking very strongly about bringing peace to Syria,” Mr. Trump said. “Very important.”
Assad and Putin Meet, as Russia Pushes to End Syrian War
New York Times
Mr. Assad, who embraced the Russian leader and shook hands with a row of generals, replied, “We must admit that the operation made it possible to advance the process of political settlement in Syria.”
The United States and other international opponents have largely backed off their longstanding demand that Mr. Assad step down and have signaled willingness to accept a political transition that left him in power for at least some amount of time. But that remains unacceptable to many rebels and political opposition groups, and Mr. Assad has been accused in European courts of presiding over large-scale war crimes.
Suhair Atassi, an opposition activist, said the West appeared to be more and more willing to go along with Russia’s agenda for Syria.
What Is Russia Up To in the Middle East? by Dmitri Trenin
One of the less examined stories of the past few years is how Vladimir Putin has used the Middle East as the springboard for Russia’s comeback as a global power. Many will scoff at this, given Russia’s meagre economy, blighted demography and cauldron of Kremlin intrigue. But Moscow, above all through its two-year intervention in Syria, has managed to outflank the US and reclaim its seat at the geopolitical top table.
With no-holds-barred tactics, it has won and, in Moscow’s view, given the US a lesson in successful military intervention. Iran has won in Syria too, and made strides in Iraq as its Shia militia allies help see off Isis. And Turkey, incensed by the US alliance with Syrian Kurdish fighters linked to Turkish Kurd insurgents, has moved into alignment with Russia and Iran. Mr Putin may feel his goal has been achieved: “Russia’s military engagement in Syria was not only, or even primarily about Syria or even the Middle East,” Trenin argues. “Moscow was seeking a comeback to the global arena as a great power.”
Russia in Syria: 'Victory' in war but can Moscow win the peace?
Russia has emerged from the Syrian crisis with its military and diplomatic reputation significantly enhanced. But this has been achieved amid huge controversy over the means used and amid much international criticism.
It has ensured the survival of the Assad regime at the same time expanding its own small military footprint in the country. But the diplomatic ramifications too have been considerable.
It, not the United States, is the "go to" player. Russia is marshalling a loose alliance of Iran and Turkey to try to plot Syria's future. Even the Saudis have had to beat a path to Moscow's door.
Russia drew its own lessons from a series of Western military interventions over the past two decades. It watched with alarm as the US and its allies hailed the upheavals of the Arab Spring as the dawn of a new era of democracy in the Middle East.
Russia's conclusions were more pragmatic and more pessimistic. And it subsequently applied those lessons in Syria.
Russia proposed Syria summit draws mixed reactions from international community
Middle East Monitor
The latest attempt to achieve Russia’s stated desire for a political solution to the six year-long war was agreed upon by Iran and Turkey in a meeting at Sochi last week.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke positively of last week’s summit and said that a future peace conference would be “a step towards stability and security of Syria”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also confirmed his agreement to back the conference: “We hope that this fruitful cooperation between our countries will have a positive effect on the whole region and reduce tensions and the risk of sectarian disintegration in the region.”