Biden warned as Russia, China flex muscle in Middle East: ‘Allies matter’

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. can be discussed.

The deal between America’s two arch-enemies raises new questions about whether the Biden administration is on the defensive and rapidly losing influence in a critical region of the world.

“We think that increasing the Russian presence in Syria is a good thing,” Assad said in an interview with Russia’s state-run RIA news agency. “Russia’s military presence in any country should not be based on anything temporary.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meet at the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (Vladimir Gurdo, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool photo by AP)

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When Putin intervened in Syria’s civil war in 2015, he helped tip the balance in Assad’s favor, ensuring the survival of the Syrian strongman despite Western calls for his ouster. . Assad has waged a war against his own population, resulting in more than 500,000 deaths, including the killing of Syrians through the use of chemical warfare.

The possible presence of Russian troops and military bases in Syria will present another challenge to the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. US national security experts watch. China and Russia are overtaking the US. In a region where Washington has historically had a lot of influence.

Rebecca Koffler, a former analyst at the US Defense Intelligence Agency, told Fox News Digital that Putin began to outflank the US in the Middle East with President Obama, when Biden was his vice president.

“Putin, through Obama and by proxy Biden, tricked the Russians into allowing the transfer of chemical weapons from Syria in 2013. Instead, the Russians saw an opening and, trying to upset the balance in the Middle East, deployed their military forces. Seized the opportunity to increase presence. In Russia’s favor. Putin is building an anti-American alliance: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria,” he noted.

Koffler, who wrote the book “Putin’s Playbook,” added that Russian leaders “want the Biden administration to think they can help with the Iran nuclear deal, peace in Syria, but in reality, Putin will not do anything that is compatible with US strategic interests, especially now that the US is supporting Ukraine. US and Russian security interests are at odds with each other.

Fox News Digital reported this week. Three main adversaries of the United States Russia, China and Iran – plan to conduct joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman. Just a week ago, China signed an interconnection agreement between Saudi Arabia and the Iranians.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reviews an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 14, 2023.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reviews an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 14, 2023. (Sana via AP)

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Spokesperson for the United States State institution told Fox News Digital, “The evidence is clear about Russia. No matter where it is militarily involved, local citizens pay the price for the Kremlin’s destructive playbook that benefits Putin.” This is evident in Russia’s military campaigns in Syria, Libya and Ukraine, where it uses military and paramilitary forces to exploit civilians in conflict zones to advance Moscow’s interests. do.”

The spokesman added, “Russia’s military campaign in support of the Assad regime in Syria has led to widespread destruction and the death or displacement of millions of civilians. These military operations create conditions for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.” undermine, and Russia has made no real effort to bring about meaningful changes in the Syrian regime’s appalling attitude toward its own people.

A State Department spokesman asserted that “Russia’s focus should be on advancing a political solution in Syria as outlined by the United Nations Security Council.” Resolution 2254Instead of causing more suffering to the Syrian people.” The eight-year-old resolution 2254 outlines a peace process to end the bloodshed in Syria.

Michael Rubin, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a Middle East expert, told Fox News Digital, “Standing with allies matters. Russia stands with its ally without hesitation. Not just Assad Putin. will give, but this move will send a signal to every other. leader in the region. It’s not just about Russia embracing Syria, it’s about Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s company with Russia.”

“We have to calibrate policy to that reality,” Rubin added. Syrian Kurds are allies and friends. If Turkey is backing Islamist proxies, and Russia is doubling down on Assad, then we should double down on the Kurds. They are more progressive, capable fighters, and want a pro-Western orientation. The question is not only 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, “This confirms that Syria will not be unified. At best, with Turkey occupying a zone and now Russia doubling down, Syria will be the new Somalia of the 1990s, which would be divided into spheres of influence and administered by various local warlords.”

Syrian refugees pose for a photo after rain filled their tents at a makeshift refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese town of Al-Alfur, near the border with Syria.

Syrian refugees pose for a photo after rain filled their tents at a makeshift refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese town of Al-Alfur, near the border with Syria. (AP)

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Rubin warned of the dangers of sending aid to the Syrian government. “Any funds we give to international organizations under the guise of Syrian reconstruction aid will essentially pay back Russian proxies for mass killings. The money is fungible. In the name of reconstruction, we Some give, he basically helps Assad and Putin build the base.” The reality is that Assad presents where his priorities lie.

Assad gave Moscow a series of tangible rewards during his visit. “We think that if Russia wants to expand its bases or increase the number of them, it’s a technical or logistical problem,” Assad told Putin.

Koffler warned that it would be beneficial for Russia to have more bases in Syria and that Putin would likely accept the offer. “Since Russian and US forces are already working closely together in Syria, Russia’s increased presence in the region gives Putin more leverage and allows Russian forces to gain intelligence on US combat tactics, military hardware, etc. There are more opportunities to gather sex. The Russians study American warfare methods. Well, to find vulnerabilities and develop counter-strategies.”

Sham was standing by. Russia on the Ukraine issueAsad said. According to the Kremlin transcript, Assad told Putin, “As this is my first visit after the launch of a special military operation in Ukraine, I would like to reiterate the Syrian position in support of this special operation.”

Assad said that Syria recognizes the territories of Ukraine that have been occupied by Russia. “I say these are Russian territories, and even if there is no war, they are historically Russian territories,” Assad told RIA.

Syrian men walk between buildings destroyed by bombs in the Syrian city of Aleppo on October 3, 2012.

Syrian men walk between buildings destroyed by bombs in the Syrian city of Aleppo on October 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Sana, File)

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Assad’s years as president have been defined by a conflict that began with peaceful protests in 2011 before erupting into a multi-faceted conflict. A country in the Middle East And drawn into foreign friends and enemies.

He has held much of his state together with the help of Russia and Iran, aided by the fact that his allies have always been more determined to survive than his enemies to defeat.

Along with Hmeimim air base, from where Russia launches airstrikes in support of Assad, Moscow also controls the Tartus naval base in Syria, its only naval foothold in the Mediterranean, which has been in use since the days of the Soviet Union. Is.

Russia and Syria have restored the al-Jarrah military base in northern Syria to joint use, the Russian Defense Ministry said in January. The small base east of Aleppo was recaptured from Islamic State fighters in 2017. Press queries sent to the Russian government were not returned.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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