Russian gamble on Syria

Assad and Medvedev. (Source Kremlin.ru)

For a very long time, Iran, with its controversial nuclear ambitions was the most reliable ally for Russia in the Middle East. This region that holds the biggest oil reserves in the world is of immense strategic importance and the battle over it is heating almost by the day. China, Europe, US, and Russia, are all interested in securing a place in this region.

For decades, the US had the lion share in the Middle East. Using a very effective diplomacy that helped guarantee stability for leaders who inline themselves with the US interests, combined with promises of economic prosperity, the White House was able to secure the allegiance of many important players in the region. The game was fair, and super powers had to lure in regimes in that region like companies lure in customers. When the US and the UK decided to invade Iraq, they violated all the rules, and took the strategic struggle over this region to a new level. Iraq was invaded in spite of the refusal of the UN Security Council, and a country with huge oil reserves was taken by force.

What happened to Saddam was supposed to be a lesson to Arab autocrats. Arresting Saddam, prosecuting him in such a public way, without giving him the ability to speak out freely was a charade that was meant to terrorize other Arab leaders. The Bush administration assumed that doing that will allow the US to bully all the leaders in this part of the world to follow its commands and surrender to its well. Some did. The first one was Gaddafi, who surrendered a nuclear program that was described by the IAEA chief as “A primitive-laboratory-level-program”. Still the US and the UK leaders took the chance to brag about this as a positive consequence of their war on Iraq.

Those Arab leaders who were not already relying on the US to guarantee they stay in power became afraid that the US will take power away from them. The US was gaining more ground in this hot region, while Russia and China were enviously watching.

Arab leaders bowed even more to the US, and even further neglected their nations, assuming that the only guarantee for their reign is the US contentment. One decade of ultimate oppression brought the explosion, and the Arab spring came. Nations that were practically enslaved for decades rose against their rulers, therefore, the leaders of those nations suddenly became of no strategic importance in this very important part of the world.

The west, trying to ride the wave, found itself unable to stand by those leaders, and the US started to show support for democratic transition in the Arab world, in order to guarantee strong relations with the upcoming regimes. The panicking thugs who are left on the helms of Arab countries are now left with no one to rely on. Their nations loathe them, and the US is unwilling to defend them.

That’s where Russia saw an opportunity for gain. Of course Russia supports the Assad regime for some obvious reasons like protecting a valuable market for Russian arms and goods, especially after the West imposed economic sanctions against Syria. Another reason being that a disparate regime like this is no longer able to abandon Russia and throw itself to the west, that is why Russia now nows for sure that helping Assad’s regime survive this revolution will mean that they will have Syria as a Russian stronghold in the region for a very long time.

There is, however, a bigger interest that Russia seeks to fulfill with its support for the Syrian regime. The Kremlin aims to inherit the role of the US as the only foreign power that is capable of defending its autocratic allies in the Middle East. By so doing, Russia wants to lure in more autocrats to join its camp, and become its allies. Russia’s support for Assad, just like America’s prosecution of Saddam, is intended to send a message to Arab autocrats. Only this time the message says “I can keep you on throne if you follow me” rather than, “I can take your throne away if you don’t”.

In my opinion, the Russian leadership is betting on the losing horse here. Arab people are simply no longer going to take it. And if Russia thinks it can invest its veto in the Security Council to buy more autocrats, eventually, the Syrian people will topple Assad’s regime alone, and then Russia will have nothing left in the Middle East except black history.

All along, Russian leadership has been accusing the west of engineering the revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine. They also went on to accuse the US of engineering the Arab spring. That’s how out of touch this Soviet-minded regime is!

If we have learned anything from the events of this year it would be that being out of touch is really dangerous. Hundreds of thousands of Russians are taking to the streets to protest against Putin and Medvedev. The two are learning first hand now what abusing power can cause, and blaming the US or the west will not spare them this time, nor would their veto.

I hope with all my heart that Russian uprising will topple this bloody leadership. Who knows, we might see very soon that the regime that was betting on stopping the Arab spring and harnessing dictators will be swiped away by the immense force of people that this spring had unleashed in the world.

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