The Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt – and soon, possibly, in Syria – will have pushed to the sidelines such obvious topics as Iran and gas when Monday, June 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin on a short visit to Israel meets Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
On this subject at least, the Russian and Israeli leaders will find common ground: Both are concerned, to put it mildly, by the chain of Muslim Brotherhood governments rolling out along Middle East shores – Libya, last year; Egypt, yesterday; and Syria, tomorrow. In their view, this process is a menace to regional stability which rivals even that of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Putin counts US President Barack Obama’s sponsorship of Muslim Brotherhood power as a strategic threat to Russian national security because of it could be the match which lights the flame of radical Islam in the Caucasus and among the Russian Muslim populations of the Volga River valleys.
As for Netanyahu, his calm-sounding congratulations for the new, democratically-elected Egyptian president, disguise trepidation. After one domino fell in Cairo, he fears another will fall in Damascus leaving Jordan vulnerable to having its king pushed over by the kingdom’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood.
Israel would then be under siege from three Islamist-ruled neighbors – “moderate” in Obama’s eyes, alarmingly “extremist and expansionist” in the view of Putin and Netanyahu.
In contrast to the Israeli prime minister, the Russian president makes no bones about his utter disapproval of the US President’s “pro-Islamic” policies. His blunt words in support of Syria’s Bashar Assad at the G20 in Mexico Sunday, June 18, were meant as a monkey wrench for US plans to continue to install Muslim power in Arab lands.
Not surprisingly, their conversation on the summit sidelines was described as “candid” – a euphemism for “difficult” – and must have raised a stop sign against the “reset” of ties heralded last year by Washington.
The Israeli Prime Minister keeps on smiling to Obama while grinding his teeth over the security avalanche set in motion at Israel’s front and back doors and wracking his brains for a plan of cooperation with Moscow to arrest the slide.
Israel has already had a foretaste of the trouble to come from Cairo. It bounced all the way from Libya’s Islamist regime to land this month with a sinister bang across Egyptian Sinai’s border with southern Israel.
In the past year, since a new regime took power in Tripoli, the strategic peninsula has been transformed into a major smuggling eden for the distribution of contraband arms and infiltrating Islamist terrorists, including Muslim Brotherhood adherents, into the Hamas-ruled the Gaza Strip and onward to other countries in the region.
For Putin the math is simple: If Libyan Islamists can travel 1,360 kilometers to reach Israel’s borders without anyone stopping them, why not 2,558 kilometers to the Russian Caucasian?
Ironically, the victim of the first suicide attack the Libyan terrorists mounted inside Israel from Sinai was an Israeli Muslim from Haifa, Said Fashasha, who died in a bombing-shooting ambush on Route 10 to Eilat Sunday, June 18. On the same day, the “candid” Obama-Putin conversation also took place at Los Cabos.
Now as then, President Obama continues to push the Russian leader to accept the compromise of Syria’s Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa, a Sunni Muslim, replacing Bashar Assad, with Assad’s brother-in-law, deputy chief of staff Gen. Shawqat Asif, serving alongside him. With those chips in place, Washington believes Assad might be persuaded to go into exile in Moscow.
What Putin hears is that Obama is so eager to have a Sunni Muslim installed in Damascus that he is willing to put up with retaining the Assad clan in power, even Gen. Asif, a chief instigator of the regime’s bloody savagery.
So both Putin and Netanyahu, when they talk in Jerusalem Monday, know they are stumped for a strategy to hold back the Islamist tide washing across this region and potentially farther afield – any more than a diplomatic solution has been found to stall Iran’s nuclear plans.