Russian Policy in the Middle East

The visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the Arab Gulf states, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, earlier this month, sparked uneasiness for the Badin administration and represented a model for Russian policy cunning in the Middle East.

At a time when the new US administration takes a tougher stance toward Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, three of America’s closest allies in the Persian Gulf are instead going in the direction of seeking to improve relations with Moscow, according to a report by the website. Responsible Statecraft American.

Saudi message to Biden

One of the things that Moscow brings together with these Gulf governments and strengthens Russian policy moves in the Middle East is a shared caution against the Biden administration’s renewed emphasis on human rights concerns, something the Trump administration has always played down.

With regard to Saudi Arabia in particular, the aim of warm relations with Russia may be to send a kind of warning to Washington that if the United States intends to take punitive measures against the Kingdom due to human rights violations, Riyadh can turn to Moscow and buy more Russian weapons and less weapons. American.

Putin with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman / Reuters

That was remarkable Saudi Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan During a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, he said that the Syrian crisis requires a political solution, stressing that this country needs to return to its Arab embrace, and to enjoy stability and security.

It is a position that is tantamount to A qualitative leap in Saudi politics in particularWhich is considered the biggest conservator of Syria’s return to the Arab League, and it is not known whether this position is a result of the Saudi change in the direction towards Assad, as for flirting with Russia to deliver a message of reproach to Washington.

Also hold Lavrov held a tripartite meeting with the foreign ministers of Turkey and QatarThey are the two most prominent countries that support the Syrian opposition, especially after the West and Saudi Arabia abandoned it, a meeting that Russian media say resulted in what is known as the Doha path to deal with the Syrian crisis.

Russian policy in the Middle East is looking for economic benefits

On the other hand, the hope for economic gains is one of the main drivers that make Russian policy in the Middle East seek to improve its relations with Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

These three Gulf Arab states have much greater potential for trade and investment in Russia than Moscow’s traditional anti-American partners in the region, Iran and Syria.

But it is particularly striking that Russia and the UAE, in particular, are apparently working together to overturn the US economic sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime.

Moscow is suffering Financial and economic crisis Therefore, it cannot prevent the collapse of the Syrian economy, just as it knows that betting on a political solution in Syria and its reconstruction is impossible without the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, and European and American consent.

It is cooperating with the Emirates against US sanctions on Assad

During his recent press conference with Lavrov, Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed not only called for Syria’s return to the Arab League, but went further when he declared that the US “Caesar Act” has become a major obstacle to a political settlement in Syria, and that Abu Dhabi will discuss this matter. With the American side, which prompted the US State Department to respond to it.

As indicated Kirill Semenov, expert on Russian affairs In his article on the site Al-Monitor, That with regard to the parts of northeastern Syria that include areas where there are Syrian Kurds and the Assad regime forces, the activities of Emirati companies in these gray areas raise the possibility that they are evading the sanctions of the US Caesar Act related to prohibiting economic dealings with companies and individuals associated with the Assad regime.

Putin with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad / Reuters

If so, this would be a prime example of how an ally of the United States has worked with Russia to thwart an American policy, which is here the US sanctions on the Assad regime.

This also indicates that while the UAE shares its hostility to Iran with Washington, Abu Dhabi believes that working with Russia and the Assad regime is an effective way to limit or even limit Iranian influence in Syria.

America sees Russia as an adversary, while Iran is only a source of concern whose behavior can be changed

This policy highlights the difference between the United States’ approach to Russia and Iran on the one hand, and the direction of Saudi Arabia and the UAE (as well as Israel) to work with them. The Biden administration sees Russia as an opponent of the United States all over the world (this includes the Middle East).

While the Biden administration sees Iran as a source of concern, his behavior may be positively modified by reviving the JCPOA.

In contrast, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel view Iran as an enemy that poses a major threat to them. Although they are concerned about some aspects of Russian policy in the Middle East, especially Russian cooperation with Iran (especially in Syria), they see the possibility of keeping Moscow away from Tehran through Gulf economic cooperation with Russia.

Of course, Russian policy planners in the Middle East are fully prepared to take advantage of this difference in defining a “priority threat” from the United States on the one hand, and some of its allies in the Middle East on the other.

And Iran, of course, is not the only source of concern for the Gulf Arab states. Russia and the UAE, in particular, are opposed to Turkey’s policy, especially in Syria and Libya. But at the same time, Russia is increasing its cooperation with Turkey and its Gulf ally, Qatar, which has recently been at odds with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This is another example of Putin’s support for the opposing parties at the same time without prejudice to losing either of them or entering into a dispute with him.

This situation irritates both Washington and Tehran

In fact, what is striking about Russian policy in the Middle East as a whole – and not only in the Gulf – is that Moscow now has good relations with all of America’s allies in the region. Hence, this means for the Biden administration: that any American effort to reduce Russian influence in the Middle East – or to get US allies in the Middle East to support US sanctions against Russia due to Ukraine and Europe (in particular) and human rights violations inside Russia – are all efforts from It is unlikely to succeed.

Nevertheless, Moscow’s improving relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, along with its already good relations with Turkey, Israel, Egypt and other countries, are not only irritating to Washington, but also to Tehran. Russia’s willingness to cooperate closely with all of America’s allies in the Middle East – including those hostile to Iran – assures Tehran that full solidarity with Iran is not Putin’s overriding priority.

Indeed, Tehran is undoubtedly well aware that the continued hostility between the United States and Iran means that Russia will not fear at any time that Tehran resort to Washington or any other party, even if Iran objects to Russian cooperation with its regional rivals. Iran also cannot outbid the Gulf states by providing economic incentives to Russia to take its interests into consideration. Even if that were possible, Russia would undoubtedly continue to seek concessions from both sides.

In addition, it would be a great achievement for Russian diplomacy and policy in the Middle East if Moscow was able to persuade the Arab Gulf states to finance any Russian-backed reconstruction efforts in Syria, even if this is mainly in the gray areas that witness the presence of the Assad regime and Syrian Kurdish forces.

There is no doubt at that time that Russian companies, not Iranian, will be the ones that will get these contracts. However, no matter how much they cooperate with Russia, it is unlikely that the Gulf Arabs will give up their close ties with Washington, especially as they are well aware that Moscow will not abandon its relations with Iran.

Just as Moscow is willing to work with the warring parties in the Middle East, so Middle Eastern governments are willing to work with the great foreign powers that have opposing interests. Likewise, the United States and Russia are not the only option for the Gulf states to engage in foreign partnership. This is revealed by the tour of visits that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi started this week to countries in the region, and includes Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman.

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