Russia continues to use USA’s mishaps in the Middle East to activate its own role in this unstable region of the world. Moscow officials say that Mideastern problems cannot be solved without the participation of the countries which the US administration labeled as the axis of evil - Iran or Syria, for instance. As long as the Russian leadership is ready to cooperate with the countries that still raise serious concerns with the West, Moscow has no competitors in such initiatives.
Syria’s President Bashar Assad visited Moscow yesterday. The president of Syria fell into disgrace for the civilized countries after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Syria’s neighbour Lebanon on February 14, 2005. Western countries accused Syrian special services of Hariri’s murder, although Moscow found such accusations ungrounded. That is why Vladimir Putin agreed to meet Bashar Assad in the Kremlin. That was obviously a gesture of support which Russia showed to Syria. “Syria have always played an important role in the region and will always do,” Putin said yesterday.
Will Russia manage to help the persecuted Syrian President? Yesterday's talks in the Kremlin showed that it is not going to be an easy nut to crack. The military state of affairs in the region (based on the long-standing standoff with Iran on the one hand and Israel on the other hand) acts like a stumbling block in the talks. “The situation develops from one conflict to another,” Putin stated at the meeting with Bashar Assad.
The US administration is another factor that complicates Russia’s intention to develop cooperation with Syria. One has to acknowledge that the USA plays the main role in the Middle East. US officials may send contradictory signals to Syria promising either an improvement in mutual ties or rejecting any possibilities for it. Dems John Kerry and Christopher Dodd are currently visiting the capital of Syria, Damascus. President Assad may have an official meeting with the two senators right after his return to Syria from Moscow. Another democratic senator, Bill Nelson, met the president of Syria in the beginning of December. Russian diplomats believe that the US administration harbors certain plans about Syria keeping them a secret from everyone else, especially from Russia.
It is worthy of note that President Bashar Assad can be unpredictable in his decisions. Many politicians from the Middle East say that Assad as the national leader is much weaker than his predecessor and father, Hafez Assad (passed away in 2000).
When meeting journalists in Moscow, the Syrian president violated Moscow’s taboo of silence connected with the recent scandal of Russian-made arms that were supposedly smuggled from Syria to Lebanese radical group Hezbollah. “Those who distribute such information making references to intelligence services and satellite communication, must set forth the real evidence to prove it. If there were such evidence we would respond but there is nothing of the kind,” Bashar Assad said.
It is noteworthy that Russia and Israel agreed not to touch upon the controversial subject pertaining to the Russian weapons trafficked to Hezbollah after Putin’s meeting with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert in October. Israeli Ambassador to Moscow, Anna Azari, said that Russia and Israel had exchanged information on the matter. The ambassador set out a hope that “Russian weapons would not be transported to Lebanon anymore.” Russian officials did not release any statements after the remark.
When talking about the perspectives of further cooperation between Damascus and Washington, Syrian President Assad said: “Those who want to isolate Syria will also isolate the solution of the Mideastern conflict. Those countries that try to do so will play a much weaker role in the Middle East.” After that Assad confirmed his readiness to conduct negotiations with the USA. It seems that the president of Syria underestimates the USA’s influence in international politics. Assad’s lack of foresight may eventually lead to negative consequences for Syria and its partners.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov