Seizing Opportunistic Influence
"The initial perception in Moscow is that we were making a complete mess of the Middle East, beginning with the invasion of Iraq, and then the invasion of Libya, and our giving [Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak a push."
"In the Russian reading of all of this, the end result of American action is always to exacerbate the chaos and to empower radical jihadist forces who are hostile to Russian interests as well as to American interests."
"We ended up tying ourselves in knots in Syria. We committed ourselves unambiguously at first to the prospect that Assad had to step down, but we didn't provide the force that would require him to do that. So our initial policy was pretty much a failure."
"As the conflict has dragged on and our options have looked less and less palatable, we've begun accommodating ourselves to the Russian view."
Jeffrey Mankoff, deputy director, Russia and Eurasia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C.
"Russia now presents itself to the rest of the world as a preserver of the status quo and a supporter of existing regimes."
"[The Kremlin's support of Assad represents] wanting to ensure that you don't have more Arab Spring-type movements in the Middle East, and then that they don't come home."
"Because of what Russia is doing in Syria, primarily, he [Putin] gets all these meetings, and people see Russia as a major player. [Putin is] using that leverage to force the West to go back to dealing with Russia."
Angela Stent, professor of government and foreign service, Georgetown University
The abyss of deadly cruelty that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has launched with such huge success on his own people has had not an iota of the restraint of conscience on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The reason is obvious enough; each of these two men believe that expunging any possibility that rebellion can succeed to fully destabilize a nation's administration -- however inept, corrupt and miserable that administration may be -- is not to be countenanced.
In their joint view rebellion is tantamount to terrorism, and they deal with the symptoms coldly and with the efficiency of instinctive murderers.
The unfurling of the banners of dissent and the compulsion of citizens who decry their state of bondage to rebel are extremely perturbing to tyrants so that their move toward supporting one another becomes a common cause; what can derail one administration can impact on the other. And since the United States which had up to the present administration always had a stabilizing effect on those regimes that bordered on tyranny, finding common cause through those nations' oil reserves, suddenly deciding that withdrawal was to become the new U.S. policy, that vacuum begged to be filled.
Where the USSR once had influence equal to and surpassing that of the United States in the Middle East, then receded as the U.S. stepped up its campaign for influence, the tide has now turned in the opposite direction, with Russia eclipsing the U.S. A situation made easy for Vladimir Putin since Barack Obama decided his nation would withdraw its monopolistic power presence, turning over a new leaf, and Mr. Putin determining this opportunity to possess a new leaf of his own would suit his power politics play very well.
|Malek Tarboush At least four incendiary submunitions burn on the ground of a narrow street in the al-Mashhad neighborhood of opposition-held east Aleppo|
Playing the chess game of influence and power with Washington, Moscow manipulated the Obama administration easily since it was an administration suffering lassitude of disinterest, surrendering its authority to Moscow's burgeoning interest in opening a new front in the Middle East. Leading the U.S. from its original opinion that Bashar al-Assad must, for the sake of humanity, be removed from the presidency, to the point where one feint was bypassed at solving the wretchedness that Syria had become by threats of retaliation, to doing nothing to help Syrian Sunnis withstand the deadly withering attacks by their government.
The Kremlin is not in the business of doing nothing; deploying its bombers and its personnel in Syria it has launched its common cause plan of nomenclature, transforming rebel Syrian Sunni militias into terrorist jihadists, the alteration in descriptive language enabling Moscow to emulate Damascus, utilizing the deadly fury of their bombs to destroy the ambitions of Syrians wishing to mount an effective removal of their mass-murdering president, to install a government of fair and equal judgement. In the process Moscow gained another deep-sea port and Middle East airstrip.
Putin's successful manoeuvring of the Obama administration into reluctantly accepting that the man they wanted removed for the greater good of a reconstituted Syria, could, after all, remain in his position, despite the barrel bombs, the chlorine gas attacks, the deadly, life-stifling sieges, the hatred compelling Shiites to slaughter Sunnis to the tune of a half-million deaths in a five-year span of tribal-sectarian bloodlust, speaks of his exploitative skills. The purpose behind the purging of Syrian Sunnis is to restore a level of stability.
Uprisings and revolutions are not to be countenanced, irrespective of the social and political reasons that generate them, for they are disruptive of continuity and generally represent upheaval in politics and between nation-to-nation relations. Just as Vladimir Putin dealt with the Ukraine uprising by supporting the ethnic Russian rebels and conspiring against the Ukraine regime straining toward the West, by depriving it of Crimea, he has turned the opposing face in relation to Syria; an ally dependent on Russian aid is supported and the rebels consigned to deadly attacks suitable for dealing with terrorists.
|A Syrian man carries his son to a field hospital after airstrikes hit Aleppo Getty Images|
So it is perfectly legitimate to target the White Helmets group dedicated to rescuing civilians from Russian air strikes in eastern Aleppo, just as flying over Aleppo to release chemical agents to target any Syrians hapless enough to live where the rebel militias control neighbourhoods passes muster with Mr. Putin. If, after all, hospitals and schools in Aleppo can be considered useful targets to deliver a message of surrender or die; live and continue to be violated by a conscienceless regime, then what's wrong with dealing death to civilians, fifty percent of whom turn out to be children?