By Vince Dhimos
To whom would you turn for urgent help in a time of dire need – to a man on his knees kissing your feet, or to a man standing tall with the world kneeling at his feet?
Despite all the Trump administration’s adulation for Israel, eg, recognition of Jerusalem as capital, his uncritical stance on illegal settlements, scathing comments on Iran and attacks on the Iran deal, Israel realizes it needs an honest broker in the Middle East, not an acolyte. After all, if your parents consistently treated you like royalty and your brother like trash, would you not lose respect for them, seeing that they were simply being unfair? You might expect such parents to turn against you at some point. We tend to trust people who are fair and unbiased.
And so, Israel has finally thrown in with Russia.
According to Bloomberg, a ranking Israeli official, has admitted the US is not “in the game” with regard to controlling Iran in Syria and that they are counting on Russia to handle the diplomatic dealing.
“The American part of the equation is to back us up,” but the U.S. currently “has almost no leverage on the ground,” Michael Oren, Netanyahu’s deputy minister for public diplomacy and a former ambassador to Washington, said in a phone interview Sunday. “America did not ante up in Syria. It’s not in the game.”
Now when diplomats or journos make statements, there can be at least 2 possible aims:
It is therefore possible that Mr. Oren’s motivation in issuing this statement is to light a fire under the US officials in charge of Middle East policy, embarrassing them into “anteing up,” to use Oren’s words.
If this is the case, and if the US is duly embarrassed, then it could ante up by becoming more aggressive with Assad, Putin or the Iranians boots on the ground. For example, Trump may be pressured by the Israeli statement into following the Neocon advice he is receiving constantly from his cabinet. But with nuclear armed Russia in the mix, there are no good – ie, non-suicidal – options for the US, beyond strong language.
Of course, if US officials have any latent powers of observation, they may realize that Russia is preferred precisely because it has a lot of clout (what Oren calls leverage) in that part of the world. For example, if you do an internet search with the words
Russian arms sales to [name of NEMA country]
you will see that most of the states in the region have recently bought Russian weapons, billions of dollars’ worth in many cases, and this despite US pressure on them to refrain from doing so.
Iran needs no introduction as it has been cooperating with Russia in the war on terror in Syria. Both Iran and Syria have received sophisticated arms from their Russian partner and both states are centre pieces of Putin’s Middle East strategy.
You will also find that Russia now has strategic partnerships with Algeria (since 9 Oct 2017). Algeria has long enjoyed special ties to Russia, and recently there have been talks on bilateral technical-military cooperation. Algeria holds the MENA record for the dollar amount of Russian arms procured last year. Among other things, it has bought 300 Terminator tank support vehicles.
In terms of strategic importance, Egypt probably heads the list of Russia’s partners in the Middle East. Putin visited Al-Sisi personally a few months ago to attend the signing ceremony for the nuclear power plant construction under Russian auspices. At that time, it was also reported that a Russian industrial park would be built along the Suez Canal. Al-Sisi has had a military relationship with Russia and has purchased military equipment from it since 2015. Last November, the Egyptian government agreed to a 5-year reciprocal arrangement to allow Russian military planes to use Egyptian facilities and airspace with each side to provide 5 days’ notice. This is similar to the new agreement between Lebanon and Russia. Egyptian troops trained in Russia last summer.
Russia and the Jordanian king Abdullah also have quite cordial relations. The king met with Putin in Moscow last month to discuss strategic relations.
As for Iraq, it is too close for comfort to the hegemon ensconced within its borders to seek a new strategic alliance with Russia, but it has been seeking to purchase the S-400 air defence system, over the shrieks of protests from its hysterical strategic partner that once virtually destroyed its infrastructure. It now says it seeks a “balance” in its partnerships. Read: freedom from US coercion.
TASS reported recently that Tunisia is cultivating a strategic partnership with Russia.
Lebanon, for its part, is developing a partnership with Russia with a marked military component, for the purpose of securing the country against Israeli aggression. This is understandable in view of the extensive damage inflicted by Israel in Lebanon over many years of devastating warfare. The establishment of the Russian-Lebanon partnership, with Russia receiving rights to use Lebanese ports and air bases, is aimed at providing a “protective umbrella” against Israel.
Turkey. Erdogan and Putin have come to terms for delivery of the S-400 air defence system. The US is livid and would try to forbid this sale of Russian arms to a NATO member but sees no good options. That is, does not want to lose its rights to use of Incirlik air base. Beyond this, Turkey is one of the key guarantor countries in the Astana talks on Syria, to which the US is not invited. Of course, Russia’s trump card here is the TurkStream gas pipeline project, which helps keep Erdogan in line.
Even Saudi Arabia has partaken of the forbidden fruit, purchasing the S-400 system in addition to American air defence systems Patriot and THAAD. Over the hysterical objections of the Hegemon, of course.
All of the above should make it crystal clear why Israeli minister Oren so frankly admits that the US has become powerless to help rein in Iran and is looking to Russia for relief. Thus, we may soon see a sort of Russia-Israel partnership emerging. We will see Putin characteristically showing respect but no favouritism to any of the parties involved in disputes.
Our most recent article Putinology 101showed that Putin has turned the world upside down with his new geopolitical concept, the Multipolar World, which is acknowledged in academe and in governmental and international agencies. But it doesn’t stop there. From the above it appears evident that Putin is the new go-to guy in the Middle East, thanks to his being seen universally as an honest broker.
So is the US out of options? Not at all. It can proudly take its place in the new Multipolar World that Putin has prepared for everyone, joining Russia and the rest of the world in a quest for peace, an end to terror and the start of a beautiful new relationship with all nations based on mutual respect. Once the useless role of Hegemon is cast aside, the potentials for cooperation and prosperity (a word that has been missing from the Western vocabulary) are endless.