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The Russian Intervention in Syria is Part of a Broader Strategic Picture

Assessing Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, Anna Borshchevskaya seeks to put it in the context of Vladimir Putin’s worldview and goals, and to demonstrate its continuity with the 2008 Russian war with Georgia and the invasion of Ukraine that began in 2014. First, she notes what might be called an ideological motivation for defending Bashar al-Assad:

November 2003 marked the beginning of the “color revolutions”—peaceful uprisings against corrupt regimes that swept the post-Soviet space, beginning with Georgia’s Rose Revolution and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of late 2004-05. . . . Putin saw the hand of Washington behind these events. As a KGB man, he had watched the Soviet Union itself instigate uprisings to undermine unfriendly regimes. Putin, whose understanding of the West and especially the United States has always been limited, could not imagine that the West would behave any differently toward him. . . .

When the Arab upheavals began in December 2010, the Kremlin viewed them the same way it saw the color revolutions—and by this time Putin had become much more belligerent. . . . It is no accident that the Kremlin has always insisted that it went into Syria at Assad’s request to protect a “legitimate government” against terrorists. This line was designed to pound into the Russian audience the message that revolt against any government is always wrong. . . .

The Russian intervention in Syria saved Assad, enabled Putin to project great-power status at the expense of the West, and entrenched Moscow further in the region. . . . Putin can also claim partial success in deterring Washington in the Middle East. His military moves, from Georgia to Ukraine to Syria, show he aims to reestablish a Russian presence across the Black Sea and the Mediterranean by creating and extending buffer zones along Russia’s periphery.

While seeing ideological, geostrategic, and economic reason behind Russia’s actions in Syria, Borshchevskaya finds unconvincing the Kremlin’s claim that it is interested in fighting terrorism. “If Moscow’s priority were in fact to target Islamist terrorism,” she writes, “it would have focused its campaign in Syria on Islamic State rather than on protecting Assad.” She also notes that “years of Western enabling—perceived by Moscow as weakness—emboldened Putin to intervene” in Syria and warns that American “cooperation with Russia will not bring stability.”

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, Vladimir Putin, War in Ukraine

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security