BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
The Middle East storm is brewing.
China’s entrance into the Middle East equation by achieving the Iran-Saudi Arabia reconciliation disturbs the U.S., which has seen this region as its backyard for years.
However, Washington is not the only one disturbed by the entrance of China into the equation. Russia also began to take steps one after another in the Middle East with the concern that its influence might erode in the region.
The most critical step came from Syria, where Moscow feels the strongest in the region. Russian diplomacy took action to reunite Ankara and Damascus, which couldn’t say “get well soon” to each other at the political level even after the earthquakes deeply affected both countries. Sleeves were rolled up again in Moscow to bring the Turkish and Syrian delegations together for normalization.
The first meeting for the normalization of the relations between the AK Party government and the Assad administration was held in Moscow. The difference between the first meeting and the second meeting is that Iran was also brought into the equation.
WHY HAS IRAN BEEN INCLUDED IN THE PROCESS?
Tehran’s participation in the normalization talks between the AK Party government and the Assad administration will pave the way for Russia to hit many birds with one stone. Moscow seems to worry that Iran, its critical ally in the Middle East, will enter China’s sphere of influence through the deal closed with the Saudis. The inclusion of Iran in the Turkey-Syria normalization process is a gesture from Moscow to Tehran that remains the importance of the critical alliance.
Another possible gain of Russia from the meeting of Turkish and Syrian delegations seems to be to trip the U.S. up in the Middle East. The fact that NATO member Turkey sits at the table with the Damascus regime will disturb the U.S. very much while the Washington administration continuously declares that they are against normalization with Assad. The visit of General Kurilla, Commander of the U.S. Central Command (Centcom) to northeast Syria is meaningful at the very time when Moscow made arrangements for the Turkey-Syria normalization talks. The poses of General Kurilla with the PYD-YPG elements, which is the extension of the PKK terrorist organization, in the region are a direct message to Ankara.
Add to this the fact that Iran is the biggest enemy of the U.S. in the Middle East… It won’t be wrong to say that Russia makes an appearance against Washington with the quad meeting in Moscow.
RUSSIA HOSTED HAMAS IN MOSCOW
Russia’s mobilization is not only limited to Syria in the Middle East. The fact that the Hamas delegation was hosted in Moscow and was received at the level of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is also a direct message to Washington. While the U.S. administration supports the far-right coalition government in Israel, albeit unwillingly, Russia says ‘I am here too’, projecting an image of shoulder to shoulder with Palestinians.
WILL PUTIN VISIT TURKEY BEFORE THE ELECTION?
Add to all these, the proposal by the Moscow administration, which had almost made all sorts of excuses to extend the Ukraine grain deal, to suddenly/spontaneously extend the agreement for another two months… The two-month extension has critical importance.
The elections will be held two months later in Turkey, which played a critical role in the Ukraine grain deal. It seems that Russian Leader Putin wanted to give AK Party Leader Erdogan the material that he can use both in the international arena and his election propaganda.
In conclusion, the Russian media has started to report nowadays that Putin may visit the quake-hit region in Turkey just before the elections. Putin also must closely be monitoring the election polls in Turkey. He can come to Turkey for one last support to Erdogan, who lags behind Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the presidential candidate of the Nation Alliance, in the polls for the May 14 elections.