After being absent as a geopolitical force to be reckoned with in the Middle East for almost two decades, Russia is now seeking ways to downscale Washington’s presence in the region by becoming a pillar of regional security. And it seems that this time around Moscow has every chance to become the undisputed leader across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
It’s safe to say that Washington’s grand plan for the redrawal of the regional map, and especially its proxy designs in Syria, have all failed. Syria’s leader, President Bashar al-Assad, is now steps away from reclaiming all of Syria’s territory. This development has serious regional implications, as it proves to regional players that if you have consistency in the policies you pursue and if you have just the right allies on your side, the tide can be turned in your favor, no matter how much meddling Washington throws your way.
At certain points, it seemed that all was but lost for Damascus over the course of the Syrian war, but yet, here we are. This shows that Russia is the only serious partner that actually fulfills its obligations to its partners. This is an important sign that the balance of power in the Middle East is changing significantly, which results in its influence growing across the region, from Morocco to Pakistan.
It’s been pointed out that the process of partial American disengagement from the region which began under President Barack Obama has further increased under President Donald Trump. Furthermore, Washington’s allies in the region today have become hesitant to continue placing all of their strategic faith and security into American hands. Trump’s unique personality has produced more doubts and fears across the Middle East than the personality of any other occupant of the White House prior to him.
The Telegraph has also pointed out that Russia exerts growing clout in the Middle East as it managed to redefine its ties with Israel. As Russian military police have begun patrolling the demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, there can hardly be any disputes over the fact that this development constitutes yet another breakthrough for Moscow and its diplomacy.
A recent poll conducted by the Spanish newspaper El Pais among young Arab people in a total of 16 countries has resulted in Russia being called a reliable ally by the absolute majority. It’s curious that the United States has been eliminated from the top ten list of allies of the region, with Washington ranking in 11th place.
The decline of the United States and the rise of Russia in the region is one of the most significant trends observed in the course of a similar poll, in which young men and women from North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia), the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain) and the Levant zone (Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen) express their opinions.
The majority of respondents (57%) believe that Washington is an enemy of their nations. The least confidence in the good will of the United States is expressed by Persian Gulf youth. It is noteworthy that such an abrupt decline in the role that Washington plays in the region occurred over the period of Trump’s presidency, even though the US was consistently losing its public image prior to Trump taking office.
As the military superiority of the United States declines, Washington has no other options to fall back on to shore up what was the foundation of America’s economic, political, moral, and cultural primacy in the region.
However, the Russian-American struggle for influence in the Middle East will not be resolved through the force of arms, in which the US still hopes it has an edge, but through purely diplomatic means, and here Putin can give Trump a run for his money any day of the week.