The main puppeteer in the Middle East, at least in the zones of the Syrian conflict, is Putin. It is he who pulls the strings, says Gil Yaron, a correspondent for the German newspaper «Die Welt» in the middle east.
In the Middle East, "everything is now in the hands of Putin," the journalist from Tel Aviv reports.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is usually self-confident in meetings with heads of state, the correspondent notes. But two weeks ago, when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu was somehow nervous, squirming in his chair. And he did not speak freely, but with papers in hand. On the backs of the sheets there was something written “in a trembling hand,” writes Yaron. But Putin "calmly smiled, barely honoring Netanyahu's comments with an answer."
"The former agent clearly surpassed the former elite soldier," the journalist concluded. Putin’s “dominance” reflects “Russia's political superiority,” he said. The decisions of the Kremlin, according to the author, are of great importance, which concerns the security of Israel. “The influence of Russians in the Middle East has never been so strong,” the Die Welt correspondent sums up.
This is evidenced by the recent escalation of the conflict between Israel and Syria. On Saturday last week, the author recalls, an Israeli fighter was shot down in Syria. This was the first time since 1982, when an Israeli combat aircraft was shot down on a mission.
In response, the Israeli air force launched attacks on Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria, and Mr. Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting that Israel was ready for further military action. In turn, Iran accused Israel of "lying", with the help of which the Jewish state is trying to hide "crimes in the region."
Israel received verbal support from the United States in this dispute. According to a US State Department statement, Washington “strongly supports Israel’s sovereign right to self-defense.”
However, Russia has also said something. Russia, the correspondent continues, who is considered an ally of Syria and Iran in the Syrian war, has demonstrated "neutrality." Moscow called for restraint on the part of the conflicting parties and warned about the "danger of escalation" in Syria. (Read more about Moscow’s reaction to the new conflict in the article “Will Russians Save Israel?” On "Military Review".)
And this reaction, according to Gil Yaron, once again showed that Russia "is not on the same side in the conflict" and "skillfully manipulates the players in the region."
Further, the author proceeds to the analysis of "manipulation". He recalls that, in parallel with the support of Iran and Syria, Mr. Putin "has been cooperating with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu for many years." It is curious that after each visit of the Prime Minister to Moscow, Israel’s “preemptive strikes” on the neighboring country followed. In Israel, some even speculate on this, assuring the public that Putin "endorses these particularly sensitive operations." Officially, Israel denies this. Yet there are “clear signs of cooperation between Putin and Netanyahu,” the journalist said.
Here is one example. Russia launched C-400 in Syria. However, these systems are not directed against the Israeli Air Force, although this “would be easy.”
Alex Tenzer, an expert on Russia, thinks in this connection that both the Russians could harm Israel and Israel could thwart Russia’s plans. In addition, Moscow needs Israel as a strategic counterweight to Iran.
Further, Gil Yaron argues that Russia has more plans than "victory in the Syrian war." The author writes that Putin encroached on nothing else, as on the superiority of the United States in the Middle East!
Indeed: now in the Middle East there is a vacuum of influence. It was formed in the region due to the “retreat” of the United States under the rule of Barack Obama. And this retreat "continues under Donald Trump." This kind of vacuum allows Russia to return to the region as a “gendarme”. In addition, at the same time, the Russians are strengthening their influence “in Libya, in Egypt and even in Saudi Arabia,” writes the journalist.
Putin’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad may be beneficial to Moscow. Benefit may be in scheduling agreements. weapons, oil, mutual trade, and especially in the new Russian military bases and ports. This is a "large geostrategic maneuver." The Russian president wants to “bypass Europe’s missile defense from the south-east and push the United States to a turn [in politics],” the author of the material admits. Therefore, today Putin is important "all the states in the Middle East, including militarily powerful Israel."
The Russian military is now working closely with the Iranians, Russian diplomats are helping Iran in the UN Security Council. However, Moscow, here and there, is confronted with the divergent interests of Israel and Iran, the author recalls. But in the end, Putin is "positioning" himself between all players in the region. In fact, he is the "mastermind of the game in the Middle East."
Why is everything so and not otherwise? Yes, because in the long term, the interests of Tehran and Moscow diverge, says Yaron. Russia and Iran "are competing for lucrative contracts for the exploitation of raw materials fields or for the restoration of Syria." In addition, the ideology of the “radical Islamic state” and “secular Russia” is irreconcilable, the journalist is sure. After defeating terrorists in Syria, Iran will want to turn Syria "into a bastion against Israel and Sunni regimes." Well, Russia will want another: “control the Middle East to build an anti-Western front.”
Finally, there is something personal about Putin’s game. “We must not underestimate Putin’s emotional attachment to Israel,” says Mr. Tenser. The expert reports that the Russian president has an apartment in Tel Aviv. In 2005, the expert says, Putin gave this apartment to his beloved teacher, who taught him German. The teacher emigrated to Israel back in the 1972 year and lived in poverty. Before her death, a childless woman bequeathed her "to her patron."
However, the expert is silent about Putin's imminent move to Tel Aviv.
Herb Keinon in "The Jerusalem Post" also writes about the dependence of the outcome of the war in Syria "from the Russians." In his opinion, Russia is “definitely able to throw off the Iranian vector from its current trajectory and thereby prevent a total war.”
In the event of such a confrontation, Russia will lose the most, the analyst is sure. And its loss would not have been a one-time defeat, but a great failure in the whole war, which would most likely lead to a wide-ranging clash between Israel on the one hand and Iran, Syria and Hezbollah on the other. And this would put an end to the multi-billion investments of Russia in Syria, the author notes.
Russia has been operating in Syria since 2015, with one goal: to preserve the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Since then, Moscow "has spent billions of rubles and shed Russian blood to do just that: to help Assad regain control of the country, saving her from the Syrian rebels and the" Islamic State "(forbidden in the Russian Federation). And now Moscow seems to be on the verge of achieving its goals and even “playing the role of king”, which will determine the balance of power after the war. Therefore, the last thing Moscow wants now is a large-scale war involving Israel. This alignment will threaten everything that Moscow has achieved. Moscow "wants to stabilize Syria right now," said Keinon.
However, there is one difficulty. Can Moscow prevent Iran from creating bases in Syria? Here we must remember: Iran is a sovereign country, and not a “client state” under the tutelage of Moscow. And yet, Israel believes that the Russians can (if they want to) influence Iran’s actions in Syria. Therefore, Israel hopes that Moscow "will do more to hold back the Iranians."
* * *
Is that so or not? Reality never wanted to fit into the Procrustean bed of some theory and adapt to the hypotheses of experts, no matter how wise and experienced the latter may be.
First, no one can predict what Moscow will do. Secondly, Moscow has the presidential election on its nose - it is just over a month before them. Third, curbing the Syrian ally of Iran, which Israeli politicians are thinking about and which they expect from Moscow, would undoubtedly have its own political price for the Kremlin. Yes, there is the issue of diverging the interests of Iran and Russia in the region, but it will only escalate when the terrorists are finally defeated in Syria. Today, neither a complete victory, nor even more so about the restoration of the war-torn Syria is out of the question.
Does Russia claim any hegemony in the region? This is another question to which the experts almost give a direct answer: yes, Putin is the main puppeteer, yes, he is pulling the strings. However, none of the experts can say with certainty which thread Putin will pull tomorrow.
One thing is clear: in the Syrian war, Russia has become a key player, and the entire region will be considered with its decisions.
Observed and commented on Oleg Chuvakin
- especially for topwar.ru
- especially for topwar.ru