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Bogged Down in a Middle East, Russia Loses Honest Broker Image

Vladimir Frolov

Saudi Arabia cut off tactful and trade ties with Iran in retaliation for the provocative ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran by what seemed to be a government-directed mob. The escalation follows the execution by Saudi Arabia on Jan. 2 of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia minister and a Saudi national, who was condemned to death final year for leading pacific protests among the Shia in the Saudi Eastern Province, the Kingdom’s categorical oil-producing region.

This growth threatens to unleash the most critical Saudi-Iran fight in the already destabilized Middle East, while inflaming the sectarian tensions between the region’s Sunni and Shia to extreme levels of violence. Domestic considerations in both countries contributed to the escalation — a show of force by an uncertain care in Riyadh to stamp out signs of domestic unrest; a coming parliamentary choosing in Iran in February where the hardliners are dynamic to upstage moderates led by President Hassan Rouhani. But it’s the spiraling adversary for regional prevalence between the two powers in the Gulf that fuels the conflict.

While a direct troops fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran appears unlikely, both carrying too most to lose from the war, and Iran, rising from its general isolation, would be retiring to scuttle this process, it is on the informal battlefields of Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where Tehran and Riyadh are waging bloody wars by proxy, that the impact of the latest escalation will be felt. The oil marketplace will be another terrain with Russia as material damage.

Russia might not seem to be partial of this confrontation, though in reality it is now flattering most ensnared in it. Riyadh’s latest escalatory moves are as most a signal to Moscow as they are to Tehran. And the summary is clear — stay neutral or stay out of the region. Unfortunately, Russia has not been neutral in the good Sunni-Shia divide.

By plunging into the polite fight in Syria, Moscow has authorised itself to be caught in the Shia fondness with Iran, Assad’s regime in Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the sectarian Shia supervision in Iraq and armed Shia militias on Iran’s payroll. Russia, whose Muslim race is primarily Sunni, now finds itself bombing Sunni Arabs and Turks in Syria while safeguarding unfamiliar Shia militias who are no reduction nonconformist than the Sunni jihadists Russia is fighting.

This is not a good position to be in, given that the vast infancy of Muslims in the Middle East are Sunni. That the Kremlin argues that it does not heed between Sunni and Shia in its “war on terror” in Syria speaks volumes about the quality of its decision-making.

Russia’s strongest item in the Middle East in the post-Soviet duration has been the forthrightness and its ability to stay on good terms with roughly all players, while avoiding apropos gratified to their slight agendas. This accorded Russia the enviable standing of an honest attorney with all the freedom of maneuver it wanted, while the United States had boxed itself into a firm anti-Iran fondness with Saudi Arabia and Israel.

That altered in 2015. U.S. President Barack Obama’s hostility to do “stupid sh..t” has now incited the United States into a giveaway representative in the Middle East, while Russia is assimilated at the hip with Iran and Assad in a narrow-minded Shia alliance. While the United States is personification the possess diversion in the Middle East to reduce the coherence and footprint, Russia is increasingly being played by others with no courtesy to Russia’s inhabitant interests. It now owns Assad’s bloody disaster in Syria and is a target for Sunni jihadists to an border that it was not a year ago.

The political talks between Assad’s supervision and the Syrian antithesis due to start in two weeks in Geneva could be the first misadventure of the Saudi-Iranian confrontation. The Saudis are mad with the way Russia and Iran managed to steer the Vienna talks into broader general acceptance of Assad’s enlarged stay in the transition process. They are vigilant on derailing Moscow’s efforts to shape the outcome in Assad’s preference by blocking the participation of armed Islamist groups like Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam whose personality Zahran Alloush, a Saudi ally, was killed in an atmosphere strike on Dec. 25.

Riyadh will be examination either Moscow will broach Assad’s acceptance of the transition routine in line with the Geneva Communique of 2013 with a complete send of power to the transitory authority. The Saudis need a settlement that would extent Iran’s change in Syria and give Syrian Sunnis their due share of power. Barring such an outcome — that Russian is doubtful to deliver — the Geneva talks will be blocked and Saudi Arabia and Turkey will ensue to bleed Russia and Iran in an unconstrained substitute fight in Syria. 

Vladimir Frolov is boss of LEFF Group, a government family and PR company.

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/555715.html