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Iran-Russia Alliance: Fast Emerging in a Shifting Mideast

A New Era In the Mideast

Have you ever wonder about the chaos and confusion coming out of the Mideast? Did you ever think the day will come when the United States’ leadership in the Middle East cease to exist? Can you guess who is running the Middle East affairs today? Welcome to the new reality of the Mideast where Iran, Russia, and Turkey run the show.

Let’s start with Russia, shall we? Russia’s long-term objective in the Middle East aims at reshaping the political trajectories of the region and ensuring their outcome, whatever form or shape they may be, to its favor. Russia’s expansion and alliances is forming in the region suggest that its strategy, no matter how clumsy it may be, is working. Russia also figures out that it, strategically, makes sense to its consideration of Iran a “Strategic ally”. I’m convinced Mr. Putin has already considered the possibility of a confrontation with the West. Thus, it’s a compelling reason for him/Russia to increase its footprint and intensify its activities in the greater Middle East.

Proof: Russia signed a deal with Syria, Jan/18 to have a permanent naval base; Russia’s only naval foothold in the Mediterranean. Another consideration: Putin wants to revisit and develop relations with Middle Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Egypt) to (a) avoid the negative impact of international sanctions and (b) to put pressure on the West and weaken its resolve. And don’t forget, as oil prices hover around $60/barrel, Russia’s increase presence in the Middle East is also driven by the changes in the energy market mainly oil and gas. That’s why Moscow is strengthening economic ties with key countries in the Mideast.

As to Iran, it concludes that the U.S. lost credibility and leadership in the region. As I argue in my newly released book, Volatile State: Iran in the Nuclear Age, Iran figures out that the United States is not ready to engage in another military conflict in the Middle East. And the hypes about a war against Iran is nothing but empty rhetoric. As we should have learned with Syria, threats we fail to aggressively pursue demonstrate political paralysis, confusion and weakness. And it is exactly this failure of deterrence that makes the United States look impotent and indecisive. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has dismissed the “uselessness of such empty threats” by the US and has said they should be consigned to the last century.

Of note: The longer the conflicts and upheavals persist in the Middle East, the better it is for Iran and Russia, strategically speaking. The matter is even more worrying now that Iran joins forces with Russia and China to further undermine the United States’ leadership in the region. Iran’s rapprochement with Russia and China also communicates to the rest of the world that the Middle East’s political order has shifted, whether the West (the US included) likes it or not. The contribution to this shift is not conducted unilaterally (Iran), but rather multilaterally (Russia, China, Turkey, India, and Iraq, to some degree).

My concern is that a nuclear Iran will inevitably spur nations like Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia to pursue nuclear technology, thereby starting a nuclear-arms race. Of note: Saudi Arabia has already announced bidding for the construction of nuclear power plants in the Desert Kingdom.

The bottom line: Global players, mainly China and Russia, will not miss the opportunity to shape, or at least play a pivotal role in shaping, the geopolitical trajectory and landscape of the Mideast, especially when their interests are at stake. That said, be on the lookout for China and/or Russia to soon enter into a strategic partnership with Iran that develops eventually into some sort of military alliance.

Could we one day see either Russia or China establish a naval base in Iran? The possibility is there more so now than any other time!!!

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