Rysslans misstag i Syrien/Iran kan bli avgörande för Rysslands framtid

Britain in Suez in 1956 = Russia in Syria in 2012? « Russia Watch.

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Britain in Suez in 1956 = Russia in Syria in 2012?

Cartoon shows Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin trying to use his UN Security Council veto to reanimate Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Under protection of the Free Syrian Army in Kafranbel, near the Turkish border, demonstrators held this sign in a protest January 27 against what they called Russia’s backing of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Reuters

Is Russia living its Suez moment?
In October, 1956, France, Britain and Israel attacked Egypt in an attempt to reverse President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. The United States and the Soviet Union strong armed the three attacking nations into pulling back.
Today, that conflict is widely seen as the bitter, historical turning point when Britons realized they were no longer a world power.

It is also seen as the dawn of Moscow’s influence in the Middle East, a region distant from its pre-Cold War sphere of influence.

Now, half a century later in Syria, we may be witnessing the sun setting on Moscow’s sway over the Arab world. For Russians, it is a painful reminder of Russia’s reduced reach in the world.

Last year, Moscow stubbornly clung to it Soviet legacy allies in the Arab world. One by one, they wobbled, and eventually fell: Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and, finally, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi. Now the Kremlin seems to making a last stand with Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad.

Russia is threatening to veto a United Nations resolution calling for a political transition in Damascus. If Mr. Assad goes, the Kremlin seems to reason, Russia has nothing to gain, and a lot to lose.

In one legacy of 40 years of close ties, the signs are in Arabic and in Russian at an opposition protest outside Syria’s embassy in Moscow. Signs read “The Syrian Media Are Lying” and “Take the Hands of the Security Services Off the Syrian People.” Photo: AP/Mikhail Metzel

Moscow’s 40-year alliance with Assad family has concrete benefits today: $4 billion in arms contracts for future delivery, $20 billion in gas investments, and Tartus naval station, Russia’s last military base outside the former Soviet Union.

On March 4, Russians vote for president. For the next month, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the leading candidate, has no interest in alienating a key electoral constituency, Russia’s military-industrial complex. (The real foreign policy votegetter is to keep the beaches of Egypt, Tunisia, Israel and Turkey open for the millions of Russian vacationers who now flee there every winter.)

On the world stage, Mr. Putin is determined not to be pushed around by the West. In Moscow, officials talk darkly about “the Libya scenario” and “the Libya precedent.”

Russian officials still see geopolitics through the old simplistic, Soviet zero sum lens. The fall of Gadhafi was a victory for Washington, and a setback for Moscow.

It rarely occurs to Russian journalists to talk to real Libyans, and ask them what they want. It rarely occurs to Russian diplomats that if they keep complaining about Libya’s revolution, Russian businessmen are going to stand at the back of the line in Tripoli.

Part of this stems from a deep skepticism in Russia today about revolution. After two traumatic revolutions in the 20th century, this allergy is shared in Russia by both the rulers and the ruled.

Demonstrators step on Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s poster during a protest against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Homs January 27, 2012. Photo: Reuters

But there is also a disdain for Arab public opinion.
In Libya and Syria, Moscow has taken stands opposing the will of the Arab League. Of course, Russia, the world’s largest oil producer, has no need to tiptoe around the big oil producers that dominate the Arab League.

But, now Arab newspapers and internet sites are peppered with a novelty: anti-Russian cartoons and protest images coming from Syria and from Syrian exiles.

In Moscow, Russia’s plummeting stock in the Arab world is a non-issue. Beneath this lack of concern may be the unspoken understanding that Moscow is wrapping up its big power role in the region.

The half century that started with Suez, may end with Syria.

One of several anti-Russian banners held by demonstrators who gathered in Kafranbel after Friday prayers on Jan. 20 to protest what they saw as Russia’s backing for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Reuters

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Benjamin Netanyahu: "We've seen this before. There was a master race. Now there's a master faith." - "Islam is as dangerous in a man as rabies in a dog." Sir Winston Churchill
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