Putin: 'We Are Here' |
Al Hayat - 30 June, 2012
Author: Jihad Al Khazen
Suddenly, on the sidelines of President Vladimir Putin's quick visit to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, I read in an American newspaper a comment, entitled "Annan Gambles Syria's Future on Annan"; another in an Israeli paper entitled “Israeli Official: "The Road to Stopping Iran Runs Through President Putin"; and a third on an American website entitled "Russia, Syria and Iran".
In the clearest possible words, I want to say that Russian policy in the Middle East, specifically with regard to Iran, Syria and the Palestinians, is completely at odds with Israeli or American policy; 24 hours in Israel will therefore change nothing.
Russia opposes further sanctions on Iran, as well as any military action, be it Israeli or American, against it. I have noticed during the joint press conference of the Russian President and the Israeli Prime Minister that Benjamin Netanyahu had the gall to misquote Putin in his presence.
Netanyahu said that they had agreed that the Iranian nuclear program is a major threat to Israel, the region and the world. However, Putin retorted that all he had said was that they discussed Syria and the Iranian nuclear program, and that the talks were comprehensive and fruitful.
As regards Syria, Russia’s declared current position is that it would wield the veto in the Security Council again to protect the Syrian regime, and that it is sending Syria defensive weapons only.
Russia is the biggest exporter of arms to Syria, and maintains a naval base in Tartus, which is the only base Russia has outside the waters of the former Soviet Union.
On the other hand, Russia has extensive economic ties with Israel, which do not receive the attention they deserve in the world media. In his brief visit to Israel, Putin was accompanied by a delegation of around 400 people, including many businessmen. Other reports said that Russia intends to buy pilotless drones from Israel.
In truth, there are around 900 thousand Israelis from Jewish-Russian origins. And as is known, many of those were not Jews but pretended to be Jews after the USSR allowed immigration to Israel in its final years; many fled to improve their economic conditions.
Israel realizes that it cannot change Russia’s position on Iran. For this reason, the most that Israel can hope for is for Moscow to remain neutral in the event the U.S. or Israel carries out a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
It should be noted here that the last round of talks in Moscow over the Iranian nuclear program had failed – so much so that no date or venue has been agreed upon for the next round.
As regards Syria, the Israeli government, a criminal and fascist occupation government that murders women and children, claims that it wants to see an end to the killing in Syria. But in reality, Israel has no problem with the current regime, as any regime that will succeed it will probably be more antagonistic to the Hebrew state.
What is more important than the above, even if we assume that Israel is honest in its stated position regarding Syria, and even if we assume that Russia was convinced by this position, is that Russia does not wield any sufficient influence on the Syrian regime to impose a solution whereby Dr. Bashar al-Assad steps down, in return for personal guarantees along the lines of the Yemeni solution.
The Syrian regime is now in the stage of ‘kill or be killed’ in dealing with the popular uprising. The regime believes that it can still defeat the armed opposition militarily, at a time when its position is growing weaker every day while the opposition grows stronger.
Vladimir Putin, in his tour of the region, was basically saying “we are here”. But Putin did not modify any of his stated stances on Syria or Iran, and even if he did, then he would not be able to change anything on the ground.