Moscow has stepped into the vacuum created by US President Barack Obama’s decision to stay out of any potentially incendiary Middle East involvement while campaigning for a second term. After blocking the way to direct Western and Arab military intervention in Syria through the Mediterranean, Russia sent its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week on a round trip to the capitals of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan – an expedition designed to secure Iran against a potential US/Israeli attack via its northern and eastern neighbors, debkafile’s military sources report.
On his return to Moscow, April 6, the Russian army let it be known that highly-advanced mobile S-400 surface-to-air missiles had been moved into Kaliningrad, the Baltic enclave bordered by Poland and Lithuania, its response to US plans for an anti-Iran missile shield system in Europe and the Middle East.
In Yerevan, the Russian minister finalized a deal for the establishment of an advanced Russian radar station in the Armenian mountains to counter the US radar set up at the Turkish Kurecik air base, our sources disclose.
Just as the Turkish station (notwithstanding Ankara’s denials) will trade data on incoming Iranian missiles with the US station in the Israeli Negev, the Russian station in Armenia will share input with Tehran.
Moscow remains deeply preoccupied in Syria, successfully fending off Western and Arab pressure against its ruler Bashar Assad. debkafile’s sources hear that Assad will not meet the April 10 deadline for moving his heavy armor and battalions out of Syrian cities. Monday, April 8, he sent his foreign minister Walid Moallem to Moscow for instructions for getting him off the hook of failing to comply with his commitment to the UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, starting with a truce.
Lavrov, rather than US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is evidently regarded these days as the senior Middle East power broker. In a thumbs-down on Russia’s deepening footstep in the region, the London-based Saudi Sharq al Awsat captioned a Sunday op-ed item, “Nor do we want a ‘Sheikh’ Lavrov.”
For the first time since the Cold War ended, the management of a major world crisis has passed into the hands of the Kremlin in Moscow and the UN Secretariat in New York.
Weeping crocodile tears, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that the April 10 date for a Syrian truce “was not an excuse for continued killing” by the Syrian regime, ignoring the fact that “the continued killing” could have been avoided were it not for the strategy pursued by Kofi Annan, the special envoy he shares with the Arab League, with Moscow’s back-stage wire-pulling.
This is because President Barak Obama is advised by his campaign strategists that the way to the American voter’s heart in November is through burnishing his image as a “balanced and responsible” multinational diplomat, in contrast with his Republican rivals’ hawkish support of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
In the case of Syria, the White House finds itself on the same side as the UN and the Kremlin. They all share the common goal of obstructing Western and Arab military intervention in Syria at all costs.
Hundreds of Syrian protesters are still paying the price in blood – although its dimensions of the butchery are frequently exaggerate by the opposition. After brutalizing his population for thirteen months, Bashar Assad is more or less on top of the revolt in Syria’s main cities, excepting the Idlib province and one or two pockets in and around Homs. He used the extra days afforded him by Kofi Annan’s deadline for the ruthless purge of the last remnants of resistance in small towns and villages, cetain that Moscow, the UN secretary – and Washington, by default – would do nothing to stop him.
Should current circumstances shoot off in unforeseen directions – for instance, a Syrian government poison chemical or biological weapon attack causing hundreds of dead, over and above the 9,000 confirmed by UN figures – Obama might be forced to resort to limited military action, pulling in the Turkish army. This has not yet happened.
That the Russians are not letting the grass grow under their feet, turning Middle East bushfires to their advantage and closing one American Middle East option after another, appears to be a minor consideration in Washington up until November.