Russian Intrigues in the Middle East

04 Jun 2019

(EDM) Russian diplomacy is well known for its apparent readiness to engage with all parties to the multiple conflicts in the Middle East, and this characteristic has recently produced another awkward tangle of opportunistic intrigues. President Vladimir Putin fancies himself a master of communicating with difficult counterparts, but he is by no means a grandmaster capable of playing chess on several boards at once. He simultaneously wants to be seen as an exterminator of terrorism and a perfect mediator; thus, a Taliban delegation as well as a contingent of Afghan politicians landed last week (May 28) in Moscow, while new reports proliferated about forceful counter-terrorist operations in Astrakhan, Vladimir and Dagestan (Znak.ru, May 30). The most complicated entanglement involves relations with Iran, with whom Russia needs to maintain a partnership on the Syrian battlefield, rather than merely good-neighborly ties. But it does not necessarily want to openly side with the Islamic Republic in the latter’s fast-unfolding confrontation with the United States and its Gulf allies. [...]

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