When Americans observe what is happening in the Middle East, from time-to-time, we have to step back and look at the whole situation as outsiders, and not just from our own parochial point-of-view. When the U.S. invaded, and then occupied, Iraq in 2003–under false pretenses, I might add–we upset the fragile balance-of-power, between secular Iraq and Conservative Shiite Iran. By taking Saddam Hussein out of the picture, the U. S. allowed Iran to establish itself as the one and only power base in the Region. That, like it or not, gave birth to everything else that has been going on there ever since.
When the Bush Administration replaced Saddam’s secular, albeit authoritarian, regime with a majority Shiite Muslim one, the new Iraqi leaders–some of whom returned from exile in Tehran–Iran began to exert more and more influence on its fellow Shiites, in Baghdad. Moscow, in turn, gained power in the process, through its close association with Tehran. As Secretary of State Colin Powell warned at the time (invoking the Pottery Barn Rule), “You broke it: you bought it!”
More specifically, with regard to Syria, we do have to face it: Russia has had a close alliance with Damascus for several decades. Also, Moscow has recently been expanding its only foreign base there, except for those in former Soviet republics, near the Syrian port city of Latakia. So, an airbase, which would be adjacent to a potential sea base, would be of strategic importance to Russia.
The U. S. and its allies have been bombing IS, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s enemy in northern Syria, for more than a year. And before that, we had pushed Iraq into a closer relationship with Iran. So, how could we possibly question Baghdad allowing Russian aircraft overflight privileges, en route to its ally, neighboring Syria?
Since World War II, no two World Powers have not gone to war against one another. Rather, they have done so by delegating that to other nations, normally financed by the respective Powers. In effect, that’s sort of Warfare by Proxy. And, I do not believe that Russia or the U. S. currently wants to diverge from recent history.
The U. S. cannot send its already war-weary troops into another war, and neither country’s people would stand for another Middle Eastern quagmire. At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t want to desert his friend and ally Syrian President Bashar Assad. There has been speculation of talks between the two Powers floating around for a couple of months. I believe that Putin wants to be part of the process in order to maintain his influence, as well as the expanding base, in Syria.
There are two quite different media versions of these talks. One is by the NY Times and the other is by al Jazeera America. Perhaps, by the time you read this blog post, you might have already read about the talks from your own news sources. My point here, however, is not to report the news; but, to suggest a point of view that some readers–perhaps mostly American--should consider. The stories are linked as follows: