As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its second week, the world is slowly starting to realize this watershed event as having multiple repercussions on their economic and political future and, more so, that no one is immune from its fallouts.
While Europe is the first to feel these changes, the Middle East, with its already turbulent political landscape, will soon follow. This is especially true with the anti-Western axis (Russia-Iran-Venezuela-China) showing signs of division, something which could spill over into Syria and other regions. It would further tarnish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s image, whose violent tactics going forward might not be enough to save him.
The Russian invasion comes at a crucial moment in the ongoing Vienna nuclear talks. The Iranian regime is trying to secure a return to the nuclear deal and ultimately remove the sanctions. This process seems to be in its final stages, especially since the US special envoy Robert Malley is adamant, at any price, to bring Iran in from the cold.
Thus, the normalization of ties between the United States and Iran will require Tehran to speak out against Putin's disregard for international norms. The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, coincidently did so in his convoluted way. While accusing the US of causing the war on Ukraine, Khamenei never the less did not show the full vigor and support for the Russian invasion that his counterpart would expect. Under normal conditions, Khamenei would go out of his way to justify and legitimize the Russian invasion and the brutal killing of the Ukrainians, which would be unwise to do at this final stage of the nuclear takes.
Equally, Iran's lukewarm response to support Putin in his Ukrainian carnage stems from Russia's permission for Israel’s unmitigated access to Syrian airspace. This concession has not gone unnoticed by the Israelis, who have refrained from providing their Ukrainian allies with the Iron Dome air defense system, which would have a devastating effect on the course of the fighting. If and when the nuclear deal is reinstated, Israel will surely increase its overt and covert war to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capabilities. More importantly, it will fortify its positions across Syria. The current and mysterious nightly explosions around Damascus are cases in point.
The Bashar al-Assad regime, on the other hand, has been seriously affected by the events in Ukraine. He fears the escalating sanctions on Putin will drive Russia to demand billions of dollars owed to it as well as to recall some of its troops and air force deployed to defend the regime. Consequently, this will leave Assad with the only choice to double down on Iran and ask for military assistance in return for oil and infrastructure concession for the shell companies of the Iranian regime.
The rising oil price worldwide will also play out and test the solidarity of the anti-western axis. Both Venezuela and Iran stand to gain from a Biden administration reengagement which would see their oil replacing that of Russia’s, driving down the price. While this option seems somewhat farfetched at this stage in the conflict, if Russia is to be bogged down in its Ukraine incursion as projected, both Venezuela and Iran would be foolish not to cash in on Russia's misfortunes and use this chance to break out of the club of international economic sanctions.
While outwardly supporting Russia and refraining from branding the attack as an invasion, China is trying to maximize its ever-growing wish to take over the island of Taiwan, something which it must reconsider. Moving forward, if Beijing is to continue to support its Russian ally with military technology, many of its sector companies will be sanctioned. Thus, China will need to choose between its interest and its partner.
Regardless of the weeks ahead, these potential scenarios don't bode well for Russia. The continuing wager on the escalating oil crisis might fail, especially if many of the Arab oil-producing countries, eventually go all-in with the West. This will ultimately prove that Putin’s war on Ukraine might be a blow which might have unrecoverable damage on the world, but more so on the anti-western axis, he supposedly commands.