In a recent series of reports and statements regarding Russia’s foreign policy in Syria, and quarrels between the key figures of the Syrian regime, it was the “pernicious activities” of Russia in the region about America’s commitment to turn Syria into “a quagmire for the Russians” and about the intention of Russia “to end its notorious client [Bashar al Assad]”.
Such a reading of the political map of the Middle East filled with incorrect assumptions, such as those who predicted the collapse of the Syrian regime in the first months of the Syrian uprising. Similar to what I wrote in this magazine in 2011 in their article “Damascus for dummies” (“Damascus for Dummies”) and “Why Assad is not worried about Obama” (“Why Assad Isn't Worried about Obama”), these erroneous judgments are a product of a very limited knowledge of politics, history and culture of Syria in conjunction with naive views on Russia’s policy in the middle East, resulting in the Foundation of American foreign policy is more of a sophistry than an informed strategy.
In his article published in the Washington Post, David Ignatius (David Ignatius) wrote that “Russia has made steady progress in that us state Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus (Morgan Ortagus) described as "harmful involvement" in the Middle East.” Ignatius, repeatedly voiced the point of view of the state Department that the Kremlin uses military force, his henchmen and disinformation to expand its influence throughout the Mediterranean region, metaphorically described the Russian diplomacy diplomacy as a scavenger who eats at the expense of the remains of the destroyed middle Eastern countries. During a video call, US special representative on Syria, James Jeffrey (James Jeffrey) said, “This is not Afghanistan, it’s not for the viets This is not a quagmire. My job is to turn this into a quagmire for the Russians”. Before Jeffrey was actively encouraged to leave the U.S. military in Syria with a view to guaranteeing care of the Iranians there.
Jeremy Hodge (Jeremy Hodge) wrote to the publication the Daily Beast article in which he argues that Russia now intends to do away with its notorious client Assad for his brutality and corruption that make it difficult to create even the semblance of a functioning state. Hodge backed up his statement by referring to a number of reports that Assad was roundly criticized and which were published by the Federal news Agency, owned by Evgeny Prigozhin, a businessman closely associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hodge focused on those arguments which he drew from his three published articles, including on the results of a public opinion poll, according to which tonly 32% of Syrians are willing to vote for Assad in the presidential election in 2021, and also that Assad was personally criticized for failing to deal with corruption at all levels of the state. What is remarkable, according to Hodge, the article on corruption States that the Assad family is not the only powerful family in Syria and that there is another clan of Makhlouf.
Hodge believes that the quarrel Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf (Rami Makhlouf) with his cousin al-Assad is another indication that, in addition to Assad, Russia is considering other candidates for President of Syria and that it is — in a broader sense — is a policy directed against Iran. Assad slowly but persistently led the assault on the business Empire of Makhlouf, against which the regime has imposed sanctions and that ordinary Syrians consider to be the real mafia.
Hodge argues that Makhlouf, who until recently was the richest man in Syria, maintains strong ties with Russia and, it seems, is a man of Russia. Hodge also argues that, while the Makhlouf clan cast their lot with Russia, members of the family of Assad and the leaders of armed groups in kardaha in the Alawite are supported by Iran. He adds that the leaders of the armed groups regularly engage in armed conflicts with Russian-backed forces, not to mention the fact that they conducted the attack on the Russian military base Hamim, where the headquarters of Russian forces in Syria. Most of the interest in Hodge and other reporters and analysts was the fact that after the publication in the Russian press materials about Assad Mahluf posted on his Facebook page a video criticizing the Assad regime. This unprecedented demonstration at the same time contempt and criticism of the regime was a direct challenge to the rule of Assad.
All this has led Hodge to the conclusion that Russia has deployed against Assad and Iran, to prepare the ground for a stable Syria, in the political sense safe and suitable for investment, receiving foreign aid and the implementation of reconstruction projects.
Undoubtedly, then, as the Russian policy in Syria and the Syrian policy of the Palace depict the U.S. Department of state and other reporters, like Hodge, many naive people think is quite attractive, but insiders see it as a disaster. This does not mean that the U.S. Department of state and Hodge profoundly mistaken in their descriptions of Russian policy and the Syrian regime. But their mistake is that they offer incomplete and inadequate picture of the behaviour and motives of Russia and the Syrian regime that could potentially turn into another major foreign policy mistake America.
The state Department pRav, stating that Russia will use military force, his henchmen and disinformation to expand its influence. However, it would be a mistake to reduce the foreign policy of Russia towards these dubious tools of influence. The astute Ignatius is probably right in arguing that America’s influence is on the wane. However, he is mistaken, arguing that, like the scavenger, Russia fills the hole that the United States leave behind, leaving the middle East.
The extension of Russian influence in the middle East is the product of a policy that combines many approaches. In the broad sense of the middle East policy of Russia is rooted in the distant past, to the era of Peter the Great. It has acquired geopolitical overtones when Russia defeated the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean war. The Treaty of küçük Kaynarca, signed between Russia and the Ottomans in 1774, laid the foundations of the multifaceted role of Moscow in the middle East — the role of the great powers competing for geopolitical influence, ideological conformity under the pretext of opposition to Western colonialism and hegemony and religious impartiality, and/or tolerance in the name of religious pluralism and support for religious minorities, primarily the Christian community. This role, which disappeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union once again came to the fore under Putin, combining elements of geopolitics, ideological confrontation, the unipolar international system led by America and religious pluralism based on the fight against radical Islam and the support of religious minorities.
In fact, Putin pursued policies that strengthened the authority of Russia not obliging her to join the exclusive regional alliances. Russia’s ability to expand the boundaries of its influence on many countries in the Middle East and simultaneously to support multiple conflicting parties due to its willingness to dialogue with all parties and to assume the role of mediator. Partnerships and alliances of Russia in the middle East are not members of some Grand strategy or strategies expressed by the opposition — that is, they are not elements of opposition Sunni and Shiite, Christian and Muslim, Pro-Arab and anti-Israeli, Pro-Iranian and anti-Iranian. In addition, Russia tried to position itself as a defender of religious minorities, simultaneously occupying the hard antidialectical position. Russia also smooths its policy of trying not to contradict the whims of middle Eastern authoritarianism and speaking in tongues in this region.
Despite political and/or ideological times��of oglasi with countries in the Middle East, Russia managed to conclude the economic, military and/or political agreements with Turkey, Iran, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other countries, while providing support to the Assad regime and establishing its military bases in Syria. Together with Turkey and Iran, Russia has managed to initiate “Astana process”, which helped to create in Syria “area of deconfliction” and concluded with Israel an agreement under which Moscow will prevent Hezbollah and Iran to consolidate their military presence in the South of Syria along the Israeli border in exchange for expediting the return of Assad’s forces in the South of Syria. Although political and military tensions arose within and in the immediate vicinity of the areas of deconfliction, especially in the provinces of Idlib near the border with Turkey and Dar near the border with Israel, Russia tried to prevent this tension grew into a larger armed conflict. In addition, although Russia coordinate actions with Hezbollah and Iran to expand the influence of the Assad regime, it continues to serve as a reliable mediator between the Assad regime and the Syrian Kurds, Druze, and Arab Sunnis. At the time of writing this article — amid rising tensions in the province of Dar, where once began the Syrian uprising, Russia has proved itself as a reliable intermediary between the Arab Sunnis and the Assad regime.
At the same time, Russia made it clear to Hezbollah and Iran that their political and military cooperation and support of the Syrian regime will not allow them to turn Syria into a military satellite of Iran that threatens peace in the region. In fact, Russia gave its consent to the fact that Israel conducted air strikes on military positions of Hezbollah and Iran, which Israel considered a threat to its national security. Meanwhile, Russia is clearly explained to all parties that the stability of the Syrian regime is a red line. In this sense, it is safe to say that Russia’s policy in Syria is much more in line with the policies of Israel, rather than Iran’s policy. Both Israel and Russia want to see Syria stable and not pose a threat to peace in the region.
It is against this background of limited understanding of the situation, typical of the US state Department and many observers, splits on the rock of non-standard, but still quite a pragmatic policy of Russia in the middle East. Therefore, the assertion that Russia has deployed against Assad and, therefore, Iran is a grave error.
Mahluf was strong support for the Syrian regime, especially when the position of the mode in the initial stages of the Syrian civil war was deplorable. He created the charity Jam'iyat al-Bustan and attached it to voenizirovannaya f��frmirovanii, whose numbers eventually grew to 30 thousand people. In turn, Assad gave Mahluf the opportunity to make many profitable government contracts and a number of other privileges. The makhlouf entrusted to protect the most important oil and gas fields in Syria, including the gas plant to Hai’an flights. Among other things, owned by Makhlouf company Syriatel became a monopoly in the telecommunications sector in the country.
State of Makhlouf grew quickly, and soon he became the richest man in Syria. However, the fact that he quickly became inviolable and equal to Assad and his insatiable desire for illicit enrichment were met by a very disapproving members of the Royal family and their accomplices. Mahluf not only coped with the security of oil and gas fields of Syria, he also did not want to fully pay regime in the form of taxes and duties. Assad experienced a concern with the growing influence of Makhlouf and felt cheated due to the reluctance of Makhlouf to pay taxes, while Assad’s wife ASMA and sister Bushra, was outraged that the family of a businessman living large in a time when many Syrians were in poverty, as well as the fact that Makhlouf inherited the most lucrative government contracts. Children of a businessman shamelessly throw around money and bragging about their expensive cars and aircraft.
As a result, in 2019, the Assad regime began to undercut the Makhlouf wings — then the Russian press has published a series of materials with criticism of Assad. But really the fact that Mahluf has published the above mentioned video on its Facebook page at about the same time when the Russian media made a criticism of Assad, is primarily a reflection of the resentment of Makhlouf Assad and his quarrel with the Syrian President. The idea that Mahluf is, according to Hodge, the people of Russia and that of his clan, unlike other Alawi clans and groups sympathetic to Russia is a reflection of a very naive view of the Alawite clan and the attitude of Russia to the corrupt and mafia groups.
Russia has a working relationship with Makhlouf, and she didn’t like the attitude of Assad with a strong corrupt figures from among the members of his family or entourage. However, Mahluf was neither a man of Russia, nor the enemy of Iran and Hezbollah. In fact, the Makhlouf tried to wear the mantle of Shiite Islam and to establish a strategic relationship with Hezbollah. For anybody not a secret that the Makhlouf tried to mitigate the financial impact of us sanctions on Hezbollah, supporting the illegal activity of the party, and assisting its senior members.
What is happening today in Syria, representedmake an effort — promoted by Putin to rein in all mafiadaputaria businessmen in Syria, which operate outside state control and, therefore, hinder the development of the Syrian economy. This idea was clearly formulated by Alexander Aksenenok of the Federation Council Committee on international Affairs:
The economic challenges now facing Syria, are even more serious than during the active phase of military action… it is Becoming increasingly clear that the regime is unwilling or unable to create a system of governance which could curb corruption and crime and to ensure the transition from a war economy to a normal trade and economic relations.
It is worth noting that, to some extent, Putin in Syria reproduces the line behavior, which he used in relations with the Russian thieves in the law (or mafia), to help create in Syria economically viable state. That is why Putin is hated by the leaders of the Assad paramilitaries and powerful corrupt businessmen and criminals who came into conflict with the state. They created a kind of free criminal organisation with more money and the same influence as the state. Mahluf stood in the center of this mafiadaputaria organization.
Putin has forced Assad to cease to tolerate the overt and covert challenges that this organization was left to the state, and to make members of the mafia could only work if they implicitly recognize the political and economic control of the state and will generously replenish the Treasury. Anyone who is well versed in the relationship of Putin with the Russian thieves in law, may say that Putin is forcing Assad to turn free mafiozoangelo organization operating in Syria, controlled by the state organized crime, which is closely related to certain elements of the state. How astutely Israeli expert Ayman Mansour (Aiman Mansour), in this sense, the actions of Assad against Makhlouf, consistent with its actions against other such businessmen, like brothers or Jaber Mohammed al-Katerji (Muhammad al-Qatarji).
Putin knows that neither he nor Assad will not be able to eradicate corruption in Syria. Putin is a famous Russian saying that the hunchback grave will correct. Thus, his dissatisfaction with Assad for the most part due to the inability of Assad to pacify the Syrian thieves.
Given all this, typical of Washington wrong interpretation of Russia’s policy in the middle East in General and Syria in particular, as well as the characteristics of the relationship between key figures in Syria is a recipe new serious errors. E��whether these self-centered and chaotic hypotheses concerning Russia’s policy in Syria will form the basis of American foreign policy, then there is no need to wonder if Russia (perhaps even with the support of China) will replace Iran as the leader of the anti-American “axis of resistance” in the middle East.
a Robert Rabil Professor of political science, Florida Atlantic University.