The US–Russian Quagmire in the Middle East
01 November 2015
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
During last Thursday's US Senate hearing tackling military and political
affairs, those present unanimously agreed that by interfering in Syria,
Russia has become a growing danger to the United States in terms of influence
They also agreed that Russia is posing a threat to the security of the Middle
East. One of the experts described what is happening as ''dangerous,''
recalling that Russia has never fought outside its areas of influence, not
even during the Cold War.
In fact, American losses are much greater than this. Washington's current
policies have pushed allies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Kuwait to
sign military agreements with Moscow, a fact that showcases an unprecedented
nadir in these countries' relations with Washington. The US's traditional
regional allies were forced to reconcile with Moscow when Washington looked
askance at their interests, a case in point being the nuclear agreement with
During the Senate hearing it was revealed that Russia repeatedly violated
European airspace last year, and is now violating NATO member Turkey's
The Russian military intervention in the Middle East, which follows the
annexation of Crimea in 2014, might not be the end of the current alarming
scenario for the West; in reality it is probably just the beginning. It is
clear that Moscow strives to expand in the region, to impose its position and
bolster its relations at the expense of the United States. This is
unsurprising. During the past six years, the US has deliberately distanced
itself from the Middle East, especially in Iraq, the Gulf, and Egypt.
Washington has taken further negative steps in refusing all appeals from Arab
allies to cooperate against the massacres committed by the Assad regime in
Syria. What made things even worse was when Washington did nothing when Iran
and Hezbollah sent thousands of fighters to Syria. The Arab allies of the
United States are now seeing how the US is begging the Iraqi government not
to reduce its security in Baghdad's Green Zone, thus revealing an American
weakness for the first time since the 1960s.
The US is certainly stronger than Russia in terms of military capabilities,
but the politics of the current American administration are based on avoiding
any military confrontation and staying away from regional conflicts.
Washington has also rejected all calls urging it to take part in the
conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa after
the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram. The US took its
time and even its efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
in Iraq came pretty late in the end.
Following Russian efforts in the region, the Americans have suddenly raised
their voices to condemn these regressive policies and are reconsidering the
strategy of confrontation with the Kremlin. In my opinion, Washington has
committed its biggest mistake in Iran, not in Syria. The nuclear deal has
ended up putting constraints on Washington and not Tehran. The US avoided
confronting the Iranians, who have now expanded their forces in Iraq and
Syria. This served the interests of the Russians—at the expense of US—as we
The US will not be able to engage in a military confrontation with Russia
because there are no legal justifications for such action in the absence of a
decision from the UN Security Council. Moreover, the US has not established a
group that can take its defense or protect its legitimacy, and the Iraqi
government is no longer listening to Washington's objections and will surely
refuse to grant the US legitimacy with regards to the Russians on its soil.
Therefore, Washington's problem lies in the terrible deal it signed with
Tehran which has now turned into a Trojan horse for the Russians since they
are on the same team as Iran in Iraq and Syria, in addition to cooperating
together in different regions in Afghanistan against American interests and
Washington's traditional allies.
Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the
former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly
magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers
of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass
communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He
is currently based in Dubai.