Putin became a Western hero of sorts as the US and EU bumbled into the Ukraine, giving him every excuse to take Crimea and secure the Black Sea military base at Sevastopol. He moved into Syria with Obama’s acquiescence to secure the Mediterranean base at Lathakiyya, and now will not be moved easily. He is exploiting his hero status in left-of-centre Western opinion, and exploiting also the dislike of Erdogan in these same quarters, in order to goad Turkey into subsmission. The fact that Putin openly said that Erdogan is ‘Islamizing’ Turkey – which is a ridiculous statement – is evidence of this.
Putin is now cementing his ties with Iran during Obama’s lame duck months, and backing the bloody repressive regimes of Assad and Sisi to take an aggressive posture towards Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. We are now seeing the Ukraine/Crimea veneer wear off Putin and the brutal Chechnya reality gradually appear from beneath. Russian GDP fell -4% last year and is on course for a similar decline this year. It wouldn’t be the first time that a declining economic power engages in military adventurism to distract the local audience. Sputnik is full every day of new Russian weaponry coming on line, and RT is beating the Putin drum less and less objectively. The Independent newspaper in London owned by Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev, who also owns the free evening paper – the London Evening standard, and the increasingly popular ‘summary newspaper’ for the Independent called the ‘i’, is joining that bandwagon.
I had some hope that Putin would consider economic ties with Turkey important enough to take it easy on Erdogan, but apparently not. Putin is allying himself with the Kurds to fight the rebels, shoving them out of Turkish border areas to create a Kurdish corridor, and denying Turkey its demand of a buffer zone. Meanwhile, Turkey is preparing itself with Erdogan visiting Qatar to guarantee his gas supplies, if he cuts Russia out, until the Trans Anatolian pipeline to Azerbaijan is ready in 2018. I can’t believe Putin is gambling all or nothing on Syria like this.
It is highly highly that HIllary Clinton will become next president of the US. She will face a de facto situation where Russia has firmly installed itself in its imperial back yard. What will she do? Iran is now out of its corner, and Putin is delivering the S-300, reversing Mevdeyev’s previous decision to cancel the deal. Syria is getting the S-300, if not the S-400, but there is hardly any army left in terms of Syrians – it’s all Iranians and Hezbollah fighters – and now increasingly Russians. I have looked and looked at the evidence on this – is Turkey’s claim that Russia is aiming to destroy the opposition in Syria, rather than ISIS, true? I cannot but conclude that it is.
In this post: http://different-traditions.com/?p=3135
(The evidence for Russia’s bad faith on the Turkish border)
I have Ibrahim Kalin’s article summarising the facts involved, and repeating the well-known fact that it is Russian banks that are clearing ISIS oil monies. Putin’s claim that it is Erdogan who is buying ISIS oil is a deflection to hide the true facts.
In this post : http://different-traditions.com/?p=3138
(How things have changed for the worse in the Middle East with Putin’s entrance)
I have Jamal Khashoggi’s opinion piece on Putin. He is close to Adel Al Jubeir, the Saudi Foreign Minister, and his piece makes worrying reading indeed. Saudi Arabia is already a war-state in virtue of operations in Yemen, and it takes little imagination to project a massive military escalation in both Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia is also a state whose establishment feels existentially under threat, not exactly like Russia’s but, in many senses, worse.
With Syria and Iran firmly now in the Russian camp, what will Hillary do if she’s president? She’s not exactly a dove. What will the implications be for Sisi’s regime, and for the resolution of the Libyan crisis, with Saudi Arabia/Qatar vying against the UAE on the opposing sides there? What will the deal be over the UAE, which is playing a double game, with and against Saudi Arabia, which cannot last. Their backing of Sisi also cannot last. The UAE is seeking closer and closer ties with Israel to protect itself, but Israel is increasingly becoming a bystander in what is shaping up as a massive showdown.
Meanwhile Western nations are vying for their place in the bombing circus against ISIS, killing children in schools and making craters in the sand. They are not even seeking to think about the fundamental reason for its existence – namely, the summary expulsion of the Sunni population from the Iraqi state by sectarian Shia governments in Baghdad, this one (Abadi) no better than the last (Maliki). Nor will any future one change things.
Will Erdogan and Muhammad bin Salman turn to embrace the Iraqi sunnis and eventually domesticate and back ISIS in a new escalation? Will we then have a repeat of 1980s Afghanistan in the Levant? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
NATO having sabre rattled in Eastern Europe for months, now sits and watches as Putin smashes through its encirclement. The US is now paying for its regressive and anti-democratic policies in the Middle-East, as Russia takes full advantage of its endless mistakes, and the empty and irrational course that the American foreign policy establishment has charted since 2004. That was when the Democratic party’s Progressive Policy Institute backed the Princeton Project on National Security (PPNS), to create the post-Bush consensus, i.e. the Obama doctrine, which sought to achieve Bush-type goals by stealth, and which has failed as royally as the Bush boots-on-the ground approach.
Meanwhile, whichever way it goes, the Middle-Eastern peoples keep getting trampled on by empires.