By Saqib Akber
There has been direct involvement of America and its allies in the Middle East since long. Former US secretary of state had, fifteen years ago, announced to make a new Middle East. US Naval fleets and ground forces have been present in the region for decades.
The Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy is stationed in Bahrain. Israel has become a nuclear power under the patronage of Washington. The Americans are present in Qatar. Jordan’s King Abdullah is good enough to be the part of the broader US plans. America could have never reconciled with the Egypt’s majority government led by Muslim Brotherhood and so the army was brought back to power there. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provided the financial support to the army junta in Egypt. Tel Aviv also got satisfied because the nexus between the Egyptian generals and America as well as Israel is very old. Troops from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a six-nation regional grouping, were dispatched to Bahrain under the command of Saudi Arabia to crush the peoples’ uprising there and save island’s royal family from being dethroned. Harsh restrictions were imposed on Iran. Iraq was completely demolished when it was first invaded during the Kuwait war and if something remained intact there during that time, it was flattened when the US-led forced attacked it during the presidency of George W. Bush. American and British troops only left Iraq after laying solid foundations to divide the country into three parts. This was part of a larger scheme. Now the time was to get to grips with Syria. It was tried to implicate its ruler, Bashar al Assad, in the murder case of former prime minister of Lebanon Rafik Hariri. But, this plan didn’t work as the truth of the murder was brought to light. It was and is in the American scheme to establish such a government in Syria that, just like Jordon, will act as a pawn of Israel. Terrorists trained in some surrounding countries of Damascus have been sent to Syria to dislodge the Assad-ruled government there. This all is being done because Bashar al Assad, instead of surrendering his authority to Israel, is still cooperating and providing help to anti-Tel Aviv forces like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah.
America, being the only superpower across the globe, is busy to make every region and every part of the world to adopt its ways and methods. Based on this attitude, the US was thinking to shape the Middle East in its own way. But, there were some obstacles frustrating the American plans and it was imperative to remove them to clear the way for Washington. However, Assad-led Syrian government proved a tough nut for the US and its allies to crack. Hizbullah also continued to hold its ground and resist the machinations of Israel. Iran couldn’t come under the influence of America despite all the sanctions. New American plans were underway. Yet another strategic trap was being laid in the name of launching air strikes against the Daesh. Turkey had also announced to capture a part of Syrian territory in the name of creating a security zone in air as well as on the ground.
When the Saudi-led forces were continuing its bombardment on Yemen, Russia suddenly decided to get directly involved in the Middle East conflict. There are many grounds behind this decision. Some observers think that the immediate reason of this involvement is to inflict a heavy below on those players who were responsible for causing the prices of oil fall to record low at the global level. Russian economy had suffered a lot due to falling oil prices. Russia was in a state of indecisiveness viz-a-viz America for a long time. After the breakup of USSR, Moscow tried to anyhow create good relationship with the western countries so that its economic conditions improve as a result of the support of the west. But Russia’s endeavours in this regard could not yield any results worthy of note. After this, Russia in collaboration with China, devised a new economic strategy. Moscow kept itself aloof from the new adventures that took place under the American leadership. But, the bonds of restraints and constraints imposed by the one-time second super power Russia on itself finally fell apart and it involved itself in the Syrian battlefield in such a way that others could do nothing of note except lodging protests against this Russian military participation. It was so because Russia started its bombing campaign in the region under the same tag that was used by Washington and its allies when they launched aerial strikes in Syria and that tag was “to target Daesh and other terror groups”.
Now it is to be seen what will be the impacts of Russian direct military participation on the political chessboard in this region and at the global level. It is beyond doubt that this aerial campaign launched by Moscow in Syria will prove to be a new and historical turning point in the world politics. Though it is not possible for me to analyze all its aspects in this column, but I will talk about its immediate effects so that we can somewhat chalk out what is coming in the future.
In addition to Russian air strikes, the Syrian ground forces are making progress against terrorists. Till now several hundred square kilometers in different areas have been freed from terrorists. Many major towns and villages are included in these freed territories. According to Syrian military spokesman, the Russian air strikes have forced the terrorists belonging to Daesh to run away. Among the retreating terrorists, five hundred were moved to Aden, Yemen’s second largest city, on October 16, 2015. They were taken there in planes provided by Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. It is worth mentioning that Aden is currently under the control of Saudi-backed Mansour Hadi's loyalists.
Although, the Russian Air Force in cooperation with the Syrian ground forces are engaged in operations against the terror groups. However, according to Western sources, few contingents of Russian ground troops have also been moved to Syria. Recently, the Wall Street Journal in a report said that Russia has sent a few dozen special operation troops to Syria, redeploying the elite units from Ukraine. If this report is correct, then it is certain that Russia intends to get further involved in the affairs of the Middle East.
Pertinently, earlier this week, the Russian ambassador to Iraq, Ilya Murgunov, met Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at his office in Baghdad. Ilya Murgunov handed Haider al-Abadi a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Iraqi government issued a formal statement in this regard which said that the Russian president has expressed his willingness and desire to develop bilateral relations with Iraq in various fields, especially supplying weapons to Iraq and exchanging information to confront terrorists. In his response, Prime Minister al-Abadi said that his country is in dire need of international aid and support to challenge Daesh terror group.
It is important to note that earlier the United States and its allies were apparently engaged in its aerial campaign against Daesh in Syria. The United States have also been giving assurances to Iraq to assist it against the Daesh terror group. But, practically the US-backed groups in Syria became more powerful due to these air strikes. Washington also failed to keep its promise of providing meaningful help to Iraq against Daesh. On the other hand, Russian bombardment in Syria is proving fruitful and as a result Daesh and other terror groups are on the run. Bashar al-Assad has also complained that American strikes have strengthened terrorists. He expressed this in an interview with a US broadcaster.
Earlier, Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman met Russian President Vladmir Putin in Moscow. The Saudi minister tried to resolve the Middle East issue with the Russians on the basis of quid pro quo. Seemingly, the minister failed on this count. The second meeting between Moscow and Riyadh was held in August and that also proved a failure. Saudi Arabia was of the opinion that Bashar al-Assad should have no role in the future of Syria, but Russia was not ready to accept this demand. According to a report, Saudi Arabia offered Russia 8 times the amount it had donated ‘unconditionally’ to Pakistan. But, it seems it is too late from Russian perspective. It also shows that it is not only the case of solving its immediate economic issues, but Moscow is seeking to play a new and stronger role at the global level as well.
It is worth mentioning that the US aerial operations have been significantly reduced after the Russian Air Force started its aerial campaign against terrorists operating in Syria. The Pentagon has released a report, which says that earlier the American aircrafts would hit its set targets in Syria 7 times on daily basis, but now the numbers have reduced to 4 on average.
On one hand, there are reports of the start of the third Palestinian intifada, while on the other the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has established, in an interview with an Israeli newspaper, the truth of Riyadh-Tel Aviv ties. He said that Palestinian issue is not his country’s priority stressing that the conflict in Syria should be resolved first. It is astonishing that the Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has gone even further his country’s foreign minister by saying that he would back Israel in war with Palestinians. Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas reported bin Talal as saying: “I will side with the Jewish nation and its democratic aspirations in case of outbreak of a Palestinian Intifada.” The feature of the third intifada is that its focal point is West Bank. Earlier, Gaza Strip had been the center of resistance against Israel for a long time. Palestinian media outlets are condemning Saudi Arabia for not siding with the oppressed Palestinians. It appears that Saudi Arabia does not want to reveal its hidden ties with Israel beyond certain point. But as the matters relating to Syria, Iraq, Yemen etc move further forward, the curtain on Riyadh-Tel Aviv secret relationship will get lifted.