Russia’s Middle East moves

While Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan are like lead weights that limit the flexibility of the United States in the Middle East, other powers are now taking advantage of Washington’s inability to function as an agent of change.

After Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Turkey this week, commentator Semih Idiz wrote:

[I]f U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Turkey was the highlight of 2009, Medvedev’s visit to Turkey is the highlight of 2010. In fact, one can even go further and suggest that the latter visit has produced much more in terms of concrete results than the former.

There is no doubt, for example, that Washington is looking on with a certain chagrin as Turkey awards a $20 billion nuclear power plant contract to Russia and signs documents that propose a $100 billion volume of trade as well as billions of dollars worth of investments, all suggesting a rapidly growing strategic partnership.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that Russia has rejected criticism from Israel after Medvedev met the leader of Hamas in Damascus.

Israel’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply disappointed” that Medvedev had met Khaled Meshaal, the group’s exiled leader, during a visit to Syria this week.

“Hamas is not an artificial structure,” Andrei Nesterenko, the Russian foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement on Thursday.

“It is a movement that draws on the trust and sympathy of a large number of Palestinians. We have regular contacts with this movement.

“It is known that all other participants of the Middle East quartet are also in some sort of contact with Hamas leadership, although for some unknown reason they are shy to publicly admit it,” Nesterenko said.

Joshua Landis says:

Russia will fish in the troubled waters of the Middle East. American isolation can only redound to its advantage. The Arabs and Iran will look to Russia for arms. Russia can also be gratified by the deterioration of Turkey’s relations with both Israel and the United Stats. It will continue to look for ways to frustrate U.S. efforts to add teeth to its sanctions regime against Iran.

So long as America’s No. 1 foreign-policy goal in the region is to hurt Iran and help Israel, Russia will be drawn back into the region and a new Cold War will take shape. Washington’s failure to realign relations with Iran and Syria dooms it to repeat its past. But this time Israel will be more of a millstone around its neck as it thumbs it’s nose at international law and human rights.

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