JERUSALEM—Two of the world’s most authoritarian leaders — Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, responsible for one of the bloodiest wars of the 21st century — met in the Kremlin on Thursday to discuss expanding Moscow’s military presence in Syria. meet.
The agreement between America’s two top foes raises new questions about whether the Biden administration is on the defensive and is rapidly losing influence in an important region of the world.
“We think expanding the Russian presence in Syria is a good thing,” Assad told Russia’s state-controlled news agency RIA in an interview. “Russia’s military presence in any country should not be on any temporary basis.”
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When Putin intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015, it helped tip the balance in Assad’s favor, ensuring the Syrian strongman’s survival despite Western demands that he be toppled. Assad has waged a war against his own population, resulting in the deaths of more than 500,000 people, including the killing of Syrians through the use of chemical warfare.
The potential presence of Russian troops and military bases in Syria would present another challenge to the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. US national security experts see China and Russia overtake the United States In an area where Washington has historically had considerable influence.
Rebekah Koffler, a former analyst at the US Defense Intelligence Agency, told Fox News Digital that Putin began overtaking the US in the Middle East with President Obama when Biden was his vice president.
“Putin allowed the Russians to transfer chemical weapons from Syria back in 2013 by Obama and proxy Biden. Instead, the Russians saw an opening and seized the opportunity to build up their military presence, trying to balance the Middle East. Of. Russia’s side. Putin is building an anti-US coalition: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, “she said.
Koffler, who wrote the book “Putin’s Playbook,” said Russian leaders “want the Biden administration to think they can help with the Iran nuclear deal, the peace deal in Syria, but in reality, Putin is nothing like that.” that aligns with US strategic interests, especially now that the US is supporting Ukraine. The security interests of the US and Russia are diametrically opposite.”
Fox News Digital reported this week America’s three main opponents – Russia, China and Iran – are planning to hold joint naval military exercises in the Gulf of Oman. Just a week ago, China brokered a truce deal between arch-enemies Saudi Arabia and the Iranians.
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a spokesman for america state Department told Fox News Digital, “The evidence is clear on Russia. No matter where they are involved militarily, local citizens pay the price for the Kremlin’s destructive playbook that kills civilians for Putin’s benefit. It happened in Syria.” evident in Russia’s military operations.” Libya and Ukraine, where they use military and paramilitary forces to exploit civilians in conflict zones to further Moscow’s own interests.”
“Russia’s military operations in Syria in support of the Assad regime have caused widespread devastation, as well as the death or displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. These military operations undermine the conditions for a political solution to the Syrian conflict,” the spokesman said. Are.” And Russia has made no real effort to bring about meaningful change in the Syrian government’s appalling treatment of its own people.”
A State Department spokesman stressed that “Russia’s focus should be on advancing a political resolution in Syria as outlined by the United Nations Security Council.” resolution 2254Rather than bring more suffering to the Syrian people.” Resolution 2254, from eight years ago, outlines a peace process to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
Michael Rubin, a senior fellow and Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News Digital, “Standing by allies matters. Russia stood by its ally without any qualification. Assad will not only reward Putin, Rather this move sends a signal to every other.” Leader in the field. It’s not just about Russia embracing Syria. It’s about Russia’s courtship of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Rubin said, “We have to calibrate the policy for that reality. Syrian Kurds Allies and friends. If Turkey is supporting the Islamists’ proxy, and Russia is dealing a double whammy on Assad, we must doubly strike the Kurds. They are more progressive, capable combatants, and seek a pro-Western orientation. The question is not what America should do, but what it should not do.”
Syria is a fragmented country, with territory controlled by Turkey, the Syrian Kurds, Russia, and Assad.
Rubin said, “It confirms that Syria will not be unified. At best, with Turkey occupying one area and Russia now doubling that, Syria will be the new Somalia of the 1990s, divided into spheres of influence”. and would be governed by various local chieftains.”
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Rubin warned about the dangers of sending aid to the Syrian regime. “Any money we give to international organizations under the guise of reconstruction aid to Syria will essentially be rewarding a Russian proxy for mass murder. The money is redeemable. What we give in the name of reconstruction is essentially what Assad And helps Putin build a base. The fact that Assad offered shows where his priorities lie.
Assad offered Moscow a series of tangible rewards during his visit. Assad told Putin, “We believe that if Russia has a desire to expand the bases or increase their number, it is a technical or logistical issue.”
“Having more bases in Syria is beneficial to Russia and Putin will accept the offer,” Koffler warned. “Since Russian and US forces already operate in close proximity in Syria, expanding Russia’s penetration into the region is giving Putin more leverage and the Russian military more opportunities to gather intelligence on US war strategy, military hardware, etc. Opportunities abound. Russians study American methods of warfare.” All in all, to find vulnerabilities and develop counter-strategies.”
Syria stood by Russia on the issue of UkraineAsad said. According to the Kremlin transcript, Assad told Putin, “Because this is my first visit since the start of the special military operation in Ukraine, I would like to reiterate Syria’s position in support of this special operation.”
Assad said that Syria recognizes the territories of Ukraine that Russia has occupied. “I say that these are Russian territories, and even if there was no war, they are historically Russian territories,” Assad told RIA.
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Assad’s years as president have been defined by a conflict that began with peaceful protests in 2011 before expanding into a multi-party conflict that has become fragmented. middle eastern countries and drawn into foreign friends and foes.
He pieced his kingdom back together with the help of Russia and Iran, aided by the fact that his allies were always more committed to his survival than his enemies were to his defeat.
As well as the Hmeimim air base, from where Russia has launched airstrikes in support of Assad, Moscow also controls the Tartus naval facility in Syria, its only naval base in the Mediterranean in use since the days of the Soviet Union. Is.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said in January that Russia and Syria had restored the al-Jarrah military air base in Syria’s north to joint use. The small base east of Aleppo was retaken from Islamic State fighters in 2017. Press queries sent to the Russian government were not returned.
Reuters contributed to this report.