U.S.-Russian confrontation in our region

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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During last Thursday’s U.S. Senate hearing tackling military and political affairs, experts unanimously agreed that by interfering in Syria, Russia has become a growing danger to the United States in terms of influence and interests.

They also agreed that Russia is posing a threat to the security of the Middle East. One of the experts described what is happening as “dangerous”, recalling that Russia has never fought outside its areas of influence, not even during the Cold War.

Washington’s problem lies in the terrible deal it signed with Tehran and that has turned into a Trojan horse for the Russians.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

In fact, the U.S. losses are much greater than that. The current U.S. policy has pushed its allies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Kuwait to sign military agreements with Moscow, which showcases an unprecedented downgrade in the relations with Washington. The reason behind this downgrade is that these countries were forced to reconcile with Moscow when Washington showed no interest in them, not to mention that the U.S. got into an alliance that is against the Gulf states – namely the nuclear program deal with Iran.

The hearing revealed that the military activity of Russia repeatedly violated European airspace last year, and is now violating the airspace of Turkey, which is a member state of NATO.

Just the beginning

The Russian military intervention in the Middle East, after the Crimea occupation, might not be the end of the alarming scenario for the West; it is probably just the beginning. It is clear that Moscow strives for deployment and expansion, imposing its position and growing its relations at the expense of the United States. During the past six years, the U.S. has deliberately distanced itself from the region, especially in Iraq, the Gulf and Egypt. Washington has taken further negative steps in refusing all appeals from Arab allies to cooperate against the massacres committed by the Assad regime in Syria. What made things even worse was when Washington did nothing when Iran and Hezbollah sent thousands of fighters to Syria. The Arab allies of the United States are clearly seeing now how the U.S. is begging the Iraqi government not to reduce its security in Baghdad’s green zone, thus revealing an American weakness for the first time since the 1960s.

The Americans are military stronger than the Russians, but the politics of the current American administration have been established on avoiding wars and staying away from regional conflicts. It has also rejected all calls urging it to take part in the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa after the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram. The U.S. took all its time and was really late in participating in the Iraqi war against ISIS.

The biggest mistake

With the Russian expansion, the Americans have suddenly raised their voices to condemn these regressive politics and are asking to reconsider the strategy of confrontation with the Kremlin. In my opinion, Washington has committed its biggest mistake in Iran, not in Syria. The thought of reaching a nuclear deal has put constraints on the U.S. and not Iran. Indeed, Americans have avoided confronting Iranians whom have dared to militarily expand in Iraq and Syria; an expansion that served the Russians at the expense of American interests, as we can see it today.

The U.S. will not be able to militarily confront Russia because the legal justifications of such a confrontation are missing in the absence of a decision from the Security Council. Moreover, the U.S. has not established a group that can take its defense or protect its legitimacy, and the Iraqi government is no longer listening to Washington’s objections and will surely refuse to grant the U.S. legitimacy with regards to the Russians on its soil.

Therefore, Washington’s problem lies in the terrible deal it signed with Tehran and that has turned into a Trojan horse for the Russians since they are on the same team as Iran in Iraq and Syria, in addition to cooperating together in different regions in Afghanistan against American interests and their traditional allies.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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