The year that changed the Middle East
Trump is seemingly not ready to sink into regional disputes any further, preferring to handle regional affairs at a macro-level, while letting the Russian president work out the finer details.
True, Daesh is all but finished, militarily if not ideologically, and has been ejected from entire towns and cities throughout Syria and Iraq. History will not accredit Trump alone with this impressive feat, and at best, will allow him to co-share the honours with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. If a credible political settlement is not reached at the Black Sea resort of Sochi next month, then Daesh will soon re-emerge in Syria, perhaps in a different form and shape, feeding off the misery, poverty, and frustration of the people. A more radicalised terror group will likely rise, more radical than Daesh, just like the protracted war in Iraq produced something worse than Al Qaida. Handling the peace talks at Sochi is Putin himself, while Trump and his top diplomats are absent from Sochi, and the parallel tracks at Astana and Geneva, allowing Putin to hammer out an endgame to the Syrian conflict, tailor-made to fit his liking.
What differentiates Trump from Putin is the former’s loud words, no action, as compared to Putin’s hands-on approach to all matters that are Russia-related. Although he bombed Syria in April, wanting to show the world that he wasn’t another indecisive Barack Obama, Trump is seemingly not ready to sink into regional disputes any further, preferring to handle Middle East affairs at a macro-level, while letting the Russians handle all details.
Historic US allies such as the presidents of Egypt and Turkey are finding a very warm welcome at the Kremlin.
RUSSIA IS OVERTAKING THE U.S. AS THE DOMINANT MIDDLE EAST FORCE THANKS TO TRUMP, ANALYSTS SAY
President Donald Trump's foreign policy is creating a path for other countries to exert control over the Middle East, according to analysts.
With some nations now believing the U.S. lost credibility as a neutral force in the Middle East, there are various powers ready to enter the void—including Russia and China.
If Russia tries to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, it would not be the country's first power play in the Middle East. Russia already had taken over Syrian peace talks to bring an end to the Syrian Civil War—a multi-faceted conflict between Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and anti-government forces. Russia is a recognized ally of Assad, and Syrian rebels said that Russia ultimately wants to keep the president in power.
Still, there remains hope that the Russian-led peace talks could succeed where United Nations efforts have failed since 2014. Karimi Juni, an independent Iranian analyst, remarked that "Russia is celebrating its victory in Syria, and America is watching as an onlooker."
Nicholas Burns, a former American diplomat, told the Los Angeles Times that Russia's growing power is in part because Trump is considered "weak on NATO, Russia, trade, climate, diplomacy" and that as a result "the U.S. is declining as a global leader."
Russia's influence in the Middle East comes as Trump singled out Russia and China in a December 18 national security speech as "rivals" who want to "challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity."
As President Vladimir Putin recognizes his increasing global influence, he is proving more willing to take bold action in Ukraine, which has been previously condemned by the U.S. Putin suggested on December 22 that Trump's efforts to single out China and Russia as "rival powers" in his speech were aggressive actions that would be taken into account with defense plans.
Putin, Saudi king discuss Middle East issues by phone
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in the Middle East on Thursday in a phone conversation with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Kremlin said.
The Saudi King expressed serious concerns over the launch of a ballistic missile toward the royal palace in Riyadh by the Yemeni Houthi movement on Tuesday, the Kremlin said in a press release.
Condemning the missile launch, Putin noted the importance of a comprehensive investigation of the incident and spoke in favor of resolving the Yemeni crisis exclusively through peaceful means and national dialogue.
The two leaders exchanged views on the situation in Syria and stressed the need to further intensify efforts to achieve a political settlement in the war-torn country.
Putin: Russia to Continue Fight Against Terror, Including in Syria, if Necessary
The president reiterated that even if the Russian armed forces continues anti-terrorism activities in Syria, the scale of its engagement would be much smaller than before.
While speaking about Afghanistan, the Russian president said that the situation in the country had deteriorated after US troops withdrew from the region, adding that "though Russia had complicated relations with the US, we should regard the situation in Afghanistan objectively."
Russia's Putin says ex-Soviet countries threatened by militants: RIA
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that former Soviet countries were being threatened by militants using Central Asia and the Middle East as a springboard for expansion.
Kremlin: Russia ready to act as mediator for US and North Korea
Russia is ready to serve as a mediator between North Korea and the United States if both sides agree, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Tuesday.
"You can't become a mediator between two countries just on your own will. It is impossible, you need both sides to be willing," Peskov said.
Peskov's comments come just days after the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new set of US-drafted sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang's November 29 ballistic missile test.
Peskov's remarks on Tuesday are not unusual for Moscow, as the Kremlin has long held the position that the US and North Korea should move toward diplomatic talks.
Russia to keep permanent forces in Syria
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declared on Tuesday that the Russian armed forces would have a permanent presence in Syria at two facilities, the naval port at Tartus and the inland airbase at Khmeimim. Mr. Shoigu made the statements on a conference call with Russian military leaders. Russia has fielded a small naval presence at Tartus since Soviet times but the naval contingent on the Mediterranean will be expanded to include 11 warships, some with nuclear power.
Mr. Putin has achieved a great deal of success in influencing the facts of the ground in the Middle East with the Syrian expedition over the last several years. A goal of the former Soviet Union was a permanent Middle Eastern presence. It seems Mr. Putin shares this agenda.