by Ghassan Kadi
THE United States of America and the Soviet Union had equal footing in the Levant’s main crisis; namely the Arab-Israeli conflict in the 1950’s, 1960’s and the first half of the 70’s. Many, especially in the Arab camp, argue otherwise, and regard that American support for Israel had always been much stronger than any support the USSR had ever offered any Arab state, and to a large extent, this is not far from the truth.
Among other things, the less-than-expected Soviet support to its Arab state partners, ie Egypt and Syria, was enhanced by the Soviet lack of full confidence in the political prowess of Arab leaders of the time and the lack of proper political stability in their states.
Syria was going through a period of political turmoil and a series of military coups, and whilst Egypt was in the firm grip of President Nasser, the Soviets were probably able to see that he was aiming for much more than he could reach. To them, he was more of a dreamer, a Hollywood-style popular star and a loose cannon than a strategist and viable partner. This however did not stop the Soviets from supplying both Egypt and Syria with arms and political backing.
After the disastrous Arab loss of the 1967 June war and the humiliation of Soviet-made military hardware, the Soviets remained right behind the Arabs to help them lick their wounds. They supported every UNSC resolution that favoured their Arab friends and engaged seriously in rebuilding the Syrian and Egyptian armies, making it possible for both states to recapture in October 1973 some of the territory they lost back in 1967.
But President Sadat was prepared to sell his soul to the devil if that gave him Sinai back. The maverick Kissinger talked him into reaching a unilateral agreement with Israel, and thereby squeezing Syria into a corner and taking away from the very resolute and astute President Assad the bargaining advantage of having a partner in a group negotiation. In global geopolitical terms, the Kissinger-sponsored talks and agreements ended up in pulling the carpet from underneath the feet of the Kremlin.
From there onwards, the role and stature of the USSR was more than just marginalized. Every single agreement all the way from the infamous Camp David Agreement to the famous Rabin-Arafat handshake were US-sponsored and initiated.
But that was bound to change.
The American unconditional support for Israel did not leave any room for negotiation and Arab dissatisfaction was reaching breakpoint. This divided the Arabs into two camps; the Yes-to-America camp and the resistance camp.
As Russia had its own post-USSR matters to iron out, the resistance camp of primarily Syria and Hezbollah found in Iran a good and useful regional ally.
From the time the George Bush senior declared that the world is now under a “New World Order’ (NWO), they literally meant that the world has become free game for Washington and her foolhardy policies. George Bush junior said it more overtly when he said that “you are either with us or against us”. Apparently, not too many observers tried to read in between Bush’s junior lines. By then, he had already defined what the “axis of evil” was, and his future actions actually meant that any state that does not fully and unconditionally agree with America, any nation that even tries to make independent decisions of its own, will be deemed as an enemy state.
The Middle East was the perfect place for America to put this into practice. After all, Israel’s security is high on the US agenda and the 9/11 tragedy provided that excuse and justification to launch attacks on the globally unpopular Talibans and Saddam.
The rest is history, but even in the absence of international rivalry, the US policies failed to bring peace to the Middle East; albeit one that gave Israel that elusive security.
Failure in Afghanistan followed by failure in Iraq and leaving Libya in total anarchy all the while not being able to give the Palestinians any state, any state at all, has finally taken its toll.
America is no longer capable of playing the role of any mediator; not one that can be trusted. In the eyes of President Hafez Assad, it lost this stature soon after Camp David. Other regional leaders took longer to learn.
Currently, even the staunchest regional US allies, ie the Israelis and the Saudis are disenchanted after the Iran nuclear deal, and unless Erdogan responds favourably to America’s interest of fighting ISIS whilst his objective continues to use the crisis as a pretext to hit the PKK, dirt will also hit the fan of the American-Turkish alliance.
The sheer stupidity of US foreign policies in the Levant has left every one grossly unhappy. America was not even able to give the Jewish people the elusive peace they had been desperately seeking not only since inception of Israel, but since the Holocaust.
At best, America was able to provide Israel with military superiority, but such is the doctrine of the US, a doctrine that is based on the principle that if a certain amount of force does not solve a problem, then more force will. Such a model has not at all been a good role model for America’s love-child aka Israel. With the third mightiest air-force in the world, and one of the biggest and certainly most advanced armies and possibly hundreds of nuclear warheads, Israelis continue to fear make-shift Qassam and other missiles from Gaza that can reach Tel Aviv sending them into bomb shelters wearing gas masks. Needless to mention the arsenal of over 100,000 Hezbollah missiles poised to hit targets as far as Eilat. Israel’s military superiority did not buy it any peace, and if anything, it created more and more vicious and determined adversaries.
Back to the Arabs, all the way from the infamous Lawrence of Arabia and his empty promises, promises that the government of His Majesty George the Fifth shamelessly reneged, different Arab leaders and states have been dealing with some of his political reincarnations. In the form of Kissinger, he gave Sinai back to Egypt and made it law for America to defend Israel, but once again, this did not bring any real peace, neither for the region, nor for the newly-furbished super-state he managed to reinvent.
When the Saudi home-grown Lawrence was reincarnated as Bandar Bin Sultan, he thought he was the one who was close enough to the Americans to such a degree that he could count on them. After all, he was the Saudi Ambassador at Washington for decades and a personal friend of the Bush clan. Little did he know that they did not regard him with equal footing; for he saw them as allies, and they regarded him with utter disdain.
In context, the takeover of diplomacy and custody as a political mediator in the Levant by the USA has been tantamount to putting a bull in charge of a china shop. The Axis of Resistance, namely Syria-Iran and Hezbollah never trusted the USA and it is little wonder that they refused to partake in its games. They had to stand alone as Russia held its breath under the very painful Yeltsin era, but as President Putin brought back Russia into the forefront of world power and decisively dismantled America’s self-declared NWO “using” Syria as an opportunity, the Levant turned a whole new leaf, and for that matter, so did the whole world.
The Maverick of Eurasia has nothing in common with the original Lawrence of Arabia and the other clowns who came in between. As a matter of fact, in the eyes of the Saudis, the reason they supported the Jihadis in Afghanistan, how and why they initially sponsored Bin Laden, co-created Al-Qaeda with America and all that jazz that eventuated at that time was for no other reason than that the Soviets were considered as enemies for being Communist atheists, and therefore heretics and enemies of Islam. President Putin does not carry this “stigma”, and shaking his hand is not a bigger sin than shaking the hand of an American Christian.
After decades of American let downs, promises and lies, the Saudis have grown tired. The signing of the Iranian nuclear deal will perhaps be seen in the very near future as the last nail in the coffin of the American-Saudi alliance.
The Levant is ready for Russian initiatives because Russia is ready. Russia can bring together Iran and Saudi Arabia and perhaps be able to alleviate the mutual fear they have of each other rather than fanning its fire as America did for decades, capitalizing on their differences, setting them up against each other, breaking a multitude of promises they made to the Saudis and providing nothing other than more uncertainty and traps.
Russia can broker a peace deal with Syria, and contain Turkey. The Israel-Palestine issue will always be a big one, but given that the USA is already losing is stature with Saudi Arabia, Israel will probably sit back and watch. If it sees that Russia can prove itself as a reliable partner in negotiations, it may just jump on the band wagon.
Unlike the Empire that is looking shabby, tired swaying before a huge impending fall, Russia is looking bright, energetic and growing tall. As it sits on the biggest ever reserve of natural resources, it is increasingly looking like a viable partner in trade with its BRICS alliance and membership of the SCO. It is making huge headlines in reassuming its role as a major power, and now it is coming back into the Middle Eastern politics as the only potential mediator that can be trusted by all the parties who have been led into decades of squabbling and fighting courtesy of Washington.
All eyes are now are fixed on Putin, the Maverick of Eurasia. The ball is in his court.