The Russian Presence in Syria Is a Force for Chaos Rather Than Order

After a hiatus from involvement in the Middle East that began in 1991, Russia has reasserted itself in the region through its intervention in the Syrian civil war. Jakub Grygiel explains how America made this return possible through empty rhetoric, passivity, and shortsightedness:

[T]he Obama administration sought to weaken Bashar al-Assad on the cheap, by arming groups like the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). This [decision] created deep and lasting tensions between the U.S. and Turkey as Ankara considers this particular Kurdish entity too close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist organization that has battled Turkish forces since the early 1980s. The resulting strain in U.S.-Turkish relations further enticed Russia to return to the region, forcing [Turkey’s] Recep Tayyip Erdogan to accept Vladimir Putin’s influence in Damascus and to seek some sort of understanding with Moscow.

Thus, argues Grygiel, the U.S. inadvertently pushed Erdogan into Putin’s open arms. And, contrary to what some experts would argue, no amount of diplomatic maneuvering will turn the Kremlin into an American partner in efforts to restore order to the Levant:

Russia . . . is not eager to rebuild Syria or to ameliorate the humanitarian disaster caused by Bashar al-Assad and the Islamist terrorist groups; it merely seeks bases from which it can exercise some influence over the eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, Vladimir Putin’s approach is to destabilize a region, creating a problem to which he can then offer a solution.

This is a time-tested strategy that Russia has employed since its rise in the early 18th century: sowing instability in order then to be able to reorder the area according to its interests. Thus, Russia has presented itself to European leaders as a staunch defender of Christians against the depredations of Islamist terrorists and, to the more secular politicians in Western Europe, as a force to limit the flow of refugees—while at the same time doing little to fight Islamic State and aiding Assad in his gruesome suppression of the opposition.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Kurds, Middle East, Russia, Syrian civil war, Turkey, U.S. Foreign policy


Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship