Why Rus­sia could not ig­nore ISIS

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

To most observers of global pol­i­tics par­tic­u­larly its murky and shark in­fested back­wa­ters of the Mid­dle East, the big­gest sur­prise of the year has been Rus­sia’s sud­den and decisive pitch into the deadly con­fronta­tion be­tween ISIS, the acro­nym for the Is­lamic States in Iraq and Syria; the em­bat­tled regime of Bashar el-As­sad, with its wider im­pli­ca­tions for Sunni-Shia re­la­tions in Iraq and Iran, not to men­tion the al­ready ex­ist­ing ten­sions be­tween Is­rael and its neigh­bors and Amer­ica’s much vaunted war against ter­ror­ism whether it is per­pe­trated by ISIS, or Al-Qaeda in the Ara­bian penin­sula.

Rus­sia’s decisive en­trance into the con­flict which com­menced with the grad­ual de­ploy­ment of mil­i­tary equip­ment and train­ers as well as hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance at the re­quest of the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment is par­tic­u­larly per­plex­ing given the fact that its last such ma­jor foray into the re­gion left it with a blood­ied nose.

In the 1950’s, the Egyp­tian mil­i­tary regime led by Ga­mal Ab­del Nasser rid­ing on its anti-im­pe­ri­al­ist pol­icy earned the en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port of the old Soviet Union. In the same pe­riod thou­sands of young Egyp­tians trooped to Soviet in­sti­tu­tions and mil­i­tary academies. The Sovi­ets also equipped the Egyp­tian armed forces with the latest mil­i­tary equip­ment at its dis­posal. The re­la­tion­ship cul­mi­nated with the award of the high­est Soviet dec­o­ra­tion to Ga­mal el-Nasser dur­ing a visit of the ro­tund Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to Egypt in 1964.

But the cozy re­la­tion­ship be­tween both na­tions be­gan to un­ravel with the sud­den death of Nasser on the 28th of Septem­ber 1970 and the el­e­va­tion of the equally de­ceased An­war Sa­dat to power. By the sum­mer of 1971, Sa­dat had mended the pre­vi­ously frosty re­la­tions be­tween Egypt and Amer­ica suf­fi­ciently enough to sign a friend­ship treaty with Washington. By July 1972 the en­tire Rus­sian mil­i­tary ad­vis­ers still in Egypt were ex­pelled from the coun­try. This was fol­lowed by the for­mal ab­ro­ga­tion of the friend­ship treaty be­tween both na­tions in 1976.

Given the state of its econ­omy at the mo­ment, observers are also baf­fled as to the ex­act rea­sons for Rus­sia’s en­try into the con­flict at this ma­te­rial time. Early this year, when the col­lapse of global prices for crude oil be­gan to cre­ate a hem­or­rhage for na­tions that de­pended on the com­mod­ity for their ex­port earn­ings, the Lon­don Tele­graph re­ported that the out­come was sure to have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the Rus­sian econ­omy which re­quired a price close to $110 per to bal­ance its bud­get. At the time the Tele­graph made that pre­dic­tion, the price of the com­mod­ity stood at $80 dol­lars per bar­rel.

To­day, as I write this, the price of crude oil os­cil­lates be­tween $42 and $47. So why did Rus­sia de­cide to en­ter the fray de­spite the ob­vi­ous state of its econ­omy? Be­fore we ad­dress that im­por­tant ques­tion, there is first a com­pelling need to dwell on the sig­nif­i­cant lessons of the en­tire Mid­dle-East quag­mire as it has un­folded since the ill-ad­vised in­va­sion of Iraq more than two decades ago to­day.

The first sig­nif­i­cant les­son, which is glar­ing for all to see, is that Western in­volve­ment in the do­mes­tic pol­i­tics of the re­gion in the vain ef­fort to en­throne democ­racy crafted in their own im­age has led not only to the elim­i­na­tion of dic­ta­tors like Sad­dam Hus­sein and Muam­mar Gad­hafi, but also, ul­ti­mately, the cre­ation of yawn­ing power vac­u­ums which opened the way for non-state ac­tors like Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The sec­ond les­son con­cerns the ob­vi­ous lim­i­ta­tions of the de­ploy­ment of air power against in­sur­gents. While air power was decisive in the first Gulf War, it has proved largely in­ef­fec­tive in Afghanistan and Iraq when de­ployed against de­ter­mined in­sur­gents en­cour­aged by the de­lib­er­ate pol­icy of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion not to put boots on the ground to sup­port the air of­fen­sive.

The re­al­ity of the first and sec­ond lessons have sig­nif­i­cant lessons for the third. The fail­ure of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy in the mid­dle-east is easy for all dis­cern­ing crit­ics of its in­volve­ment in the re­gion to see, ex­cept if your name is Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu. Be­fore our very eyes, we may all be un­wit­ting wit­nesses to the grad­ual wan­ing of Amer­i­can hege­mony and its im­pact on global pol­i­tics faster than we had pre­vi­ously thought of the pos­si­bil­ity. The process is sure to be con­cluded if Amer­i­cans make the mis­take of elect­ing Don­ald Trump next year.

The fi­nal and most decisive les­son is that the West’s long search for mod­er­ate gov­ern­ments and Mus­lims in the re­gion will re­main an il­lu­sion for eter­nity for as long as the strat­egy be­hind the idea is to en­sure only the gen­eral se­cu­rity and eco­nomic well­be­ing of Is­rael, and not the col­lec­tive in­ter­ests of the Arab gov­ern­ments and peo­ple that sur­round it.

Back to the decisive ques­tion of why the Rus­sians have cho­sen to in­ter­vene in the fight against ISIS; one of the most ridicu­lous sug­ges­tions I have read so far, is the no­tion that Moscow is throw­ing its weight around in the ef­fort to re­vive the im­pe­rial legacy it lost with the col­lapse of the Soviet Union.

The sug­ges­tion is flawed prin­ci­pally be­cause it ig­nores the im­por­tant fact that un­like Amer­ica, the Rus­sians share borders with the Mid­dle East and, as such, has le­git­i­mate na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests in the re­gion. In ad­di­tion, Rus­sia has a pop­u­la­tion of 15 to 20 mil­lion Mus­lims.

Even more crit­i­cal still, Rus­sia has had to deal with its own form of mil­i­tancy in its restive Cau­ca­sus. In the in­ter­view he granted CBS tele­vi­sion on the side­lines of the re­cent meet­ings of United Na­tions for in­stance, the Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin de­clared that his na­tion could not af­ford to ig­nore the un­fold­ing events in Syria be­cause be­tween more than 2,000 fight­ers from Rus­sia and ex-Soviet Re­publics are in Syria fight­ing for ISIS and that the threat ex­isted that those same fight­ers could re­turn to desta­bi­lize their own coun­try.

In con­clu­sion, while Amer­ica’s es­teem in the larger Mid­dle-East has been di­min­ished by the widely re­ported Is­lam pho­bic rhetoric of the lead­ing po­lit­i­cal con­tenders for next year’s elec­tion from the ranks of the op­po­si­tion, and ob­vi­ous bias in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of its Mid­dle-East for­eign pol­icy, the Rus­sians have no such con­cerns. They ac­tu­ally look like more cred­i­ble ar­biters in the rag­ing co­nun­drum while pro­tect­ing their na­tional in­ter­est as well.

Xavi is hope­ful of re­turn­ing to for­mer club Barcelona in the fu­ture, hint­ing that he has his eyes on the coach’s po­si­tion.

The midfielder joined Al Sadd af­ter more than two decades with the Camp Nou club, where he won eight La Liga ti­tles as well as the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League four times.

And the 35-year-old re­vealed he has al­ready be­gun his coach­ing stud­ies and is aim­ing for a re­turn to his for­mer stamp­ing ground. To­mas Berdych of the Czech Re­pub­lic beat Spain’s Guillermo Gar­cia-Lopez yesterday in a straight set tiebreaker to claim the rain­plagued Shen­zhen Open.

Top seed Berdych de­feated Gar­cia-Lopez, the num­ber four seed, 6-3, 7-6 (9/7) for the ti­tle.

The fi­nal, orig­i­nally set for Sun­day, was de­layed by one day as rain on Satur­day washed out semi­fi­nal play in the south­ern Chi­nese city.

Xavi

To­mas Berdych

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