Oct 18, 2019, 11:05 AM
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Russia seeking to create Turkish-Arab equation in Syria to contain Turkey

Tehran, Oct 18, IRNA - Former Middle East Department Director-General of the Foreign Ministry stressed that Moscow is seeking to create a Turkish-Arab equation with the role of the Arabs in this way to hinder Turkey's expansionism and Russia is to act as a crisis manager.

In an exclusive interview with IRNA, Qasem Mohebali, referring to the recent visit of the Russian president to Saudi Arabia and the conclusion of 10 economic and trade agreements between Riyadh and Moscow, said that the Saudi Arabia and former Soviet Union had no political relationship with each other but after the Soviet collapse, diplomatic relations were established between Riyadh and Moscow, but these relations were not warm until recent years, and the Saudis were not interested in expanding relations with the Russians.

The developments of the past few years, especially after the Arab Spring and the fall in oil prices, have led to a gradual increase in Russian influence in the West Asian region, and as a result, the cooperation between the two countries has expanded and their relations have been strengthened, he said.

The senior analyst further said that Riyadh and Moscow are already working together on a number of areas, most notably energy cooperation and efforts to stabilize oil prices so that Russia becomes Saudi Arabia's OPEC partner. Together, they managed to control prices and gain more control over the market for oil.

Mohebali described Putin's visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE as a new phenomenon in Russian-Arab relations in recent decades and went on to say that agreements between Riyadh and Moscow are related to military, investment and economic cooperation. Russia seems to be seeking opportunity with developments in the Middle East, a lack of a clear strategy by the Trump administration towards the Middle East and its approach to the Arab states to maximize its influence.

The analyst stated that Moscow is the only power that had a good and wide relationship with all the disputing parties in the Middle East, noting that Russia had good relations with Iran, Turkey and Israel, and was able to cooperate with them in Syria while there is a paradox of relations and interests between them in Syria. The Russians now want to deepen their relations with the Saudis.

The former diplomat added, "Though the policy is a collection of contradictions, but the Russians have been able to establish a broad relationship with hostile governments and manage these relations."

Saudi Arabia's relations with the United States have been based on Washington's need for Middle East oil interests, especially Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh's need to secure and buy support from the other side, but the United States for some years, no longer needs Saudi Arabian oil interests and imports little of it because it has become one of the major oil producers and exporters.

He said that the US lack of need to Saudi oil and the growing Chinese power have diminished the importance of the Middle East and subsequently Saudi Arabia to the United States, and reiterated that after 9/11, there was a kind of institutionalized grievance between the American political community and the American elite against towards Saudi Arabia. Although American governments are reluctant to tackle this issue for political and economic reasons, there seems to be deep discouragement and hatred for Saudi Arabia in the United States.

In Khashoghchi's case, both Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi regime saw that they were a large part of their opposition inside the United States, using large podiums against them and have the support of parties and currents of American power, so Riyadh is concerned about the US support for the opposition and Washington's pursuit of regime change.

Mohebali said that Saudi Arabia was deeply concerned and distrusted of the US, and added that Saudi Arabia wanted to get out of the situation after mistakes in the Arab Spring such as Egypt, Syria and Yemen, but Trump has said it several times that he wants to use this Saudi weakness to sell weapons and their investment in the US, contrary to the practice of previous US governments that kept formalities.

Riyadh feels the White House does not want to go to war with Tehran on the basis of their will, he said, referring to US Middle East policy. The Americans in Syria and Yemen did not follow Saudi policy of direct involvement in the war. They are now in a paradoxical state. On the one hand, they need a serious relationship with the US to be secured, but on the other hand, they do not see serious determination from the other side.

In this situation, the Saudis are looking for a replacement for the United States, and this is why they are turning to Russia, China and India as emerging and growing powers, the senior Middle East analyst went on to say. So they are trying to develop relations with Moscow, Beijing and Delhi.

Mohebali referred to one of the reasons for Saudi Arabia's development of relations with Russia countering and balance of power with Iran, saying that Saudi Arabia does not have the capacity to preserve balance of power and deterrence to maintain security and balance of power so they need a security deal with a power outside the region. The US has played this role to this day, but given Washington's shift, Riyadh is trying to force itself to diversify its foreign relations and build similar relationships with others and bring them into economic and military interests.

He explained the goals of Putin during his visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE said that Putin said in an interview on the sideline of the G-20 summit that Syria made us come back to the Middle East while Russia's role in the Middle East was diminished after the collapse of the Soviet Union and they had given their roles to America and Europe. Now, Putin’s Russia is seeking to revive Soviet’s regional international influence in the region, and one of the places that can restore this power is their presence in the Middle East.

That is why the Russians have expanded their relations with West Asian regional powers such as Iran, Turkey and Israel over the past few years and are now developing relations with Saudi Arabia and, ironically, the only actor with a broad relationship with all the important players in the Middle East.


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