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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Obama's Friend Putin Rushes to Fill a Middle East Power Vacuum

And so it continues:

In Syria, Shiite fighters from Lebanon (see:, Iraq (see: and Yemen ( are hurrying to prop up Kerry's "dear friend" Assad in his battle against al-Qaeda backed rebel forces.

Arab Gulf states are considering punitive action against Iran's surrogate Hezbollah for its involvement in Syria (see:

Meanwhile, the fighting in Syria is spreading into Lebanon and threatening to destabilize this country as well (see:

Iraq is experiencing a new wave of sectarian bombings (see:

And in Turkey, an open street rebellion has sprouted against the tyranny of Erdogan, one of Obama's "five top interatnional friends" (see:, whose AKP Party has jailed more journalists than any other country in the world (see:

Now surely you remember President Obama's open microphone gaffe in Seoul in March 2012, when he asked for "space" from Putin in exchange for "flexibility" after the presidential election in November:

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it's important for him [Putin] to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

So how is Obama's friend Putin responding to this regional crisis?

Russia is pouring fuel on the fire by threatening to send advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles ( and MiG-29 fighter planes ( to Syria. This comes on the heels of Putin's decision in March to deploy Russia's navy in the Mediterranean on a permanent basis (see:

Israel has gone on record as stating that it will destroy the S-300 antiaircraft system if it is delivered to Assad (see:

Putin's action follows Obama's inaction in response to the use of chemical weapons by Assad against Syrian rebels. Putin is well aware that Obama's "red lines" are meaningless.

In short, a power vacuum has been created in the Middle East owing to a perception of American infirmity, and Russia is rushing to fill it. It remains to be seen whether this chaos, being fanned by Putin, will spread to Arab regimes in the Gulf, which have been traditionally friendly to the US.


  1. Yes, Obama remains "cool" and "no drama." Too bad the world is set on fire.

  2. Hi JG: Thought you'd like to read this by Victor Kotsev, although the comment thread is also interesting:

    As for Putin and the GCC? Not a chance, because, after all, 1) Putin blames them for Chechnya's Wahhabi conversion in the late 1990's, and 2) the GCC prefers the pork-eating aethiests of China to the pork-eating Christians of Russia :)

    A more serious analysis:
    "Russia’s Middle-East Gambit The Syrian civil war puts Moscow’s relations with the West, Turkey, the Gulf States, and Israel to a
    serious test"

    By Dmitri Trenin|May 30, 2013 12:00 AM

    Today's BBC has Bahrain almost declaring war on Hezbollah.

    Stay frosty!


  3. Sounds like just another manic Monday in the Middle East. The tricky part for Israel is trying to stay at the center of the storm without getting pulled in by any sudden political or military turbulence.

    So, now with thousands of Hezbollah militants on the ground in Syria and Russia openly supplying Assad with advanced weaponry, do you still believe what you wrote here nearly a year ago?

    "Assad's downfall is assured, and the trajectory of his decline will not be linear. Rather, when the will of the loyalists cracks, all will unravel within the blink of an eye."

    1. I was dead wrong. As I stated two weeks ago ( "here I should also acknowledge that I was wrong in the past. I anticipated that Sunni rebel forces in Syria would sweep away Assad's army, consisting primarily of Sunni conscripts led by Alawite officers. I did not take into account that Iran would order Hezbollah shock troops into the fray on the side of Assad, which have been countered with Sunni jihadists from around the Muslim world, who are supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar." I also didn't factor in Houthis from Yemen and Shiites from Iraq joining Assad's forces. Mea culpa.

  4. Thanks for your candidness, Jeff. Unfortunately, the inside word is that Langley will be curtailing your JG Caesarea Security Analyst Certificate program, effective immediately ;-)

    For Israel's sake, I wish both sides of the conflict in Syria, equally, the best of luck.

  5. Reuters remembered to check Wikileaks:

    * Wikileaks cables show Russia said it would not sell S-300 to Syria
    * Russia similarly "froze" S-300 sale to Iran
    * But linked Iran sale to progress on missile defence in Europe

    By Tom Miles
    Mon Jun 3, 2013 12:36pm EDT

    (I think Daniel Craig should play Putin in the film version)

    As for the fate of Assad and/or anything else these days, e.g. Central European floods meet Oklahoma tornadoes, always good to turn to the quotations of Yogi Berra (baseball Yogi) :

    "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."