Moscow’s Mideast Opportunity

Washington has undermined its own position in Syria by essentially giving Erdogan control over U.S. strategy, which offers Moscow the opportunity to use its Shi’i contacts to offer Washington a deal it cannot refuse.

Washington, accustomed to fancying itself top dog in the Mideast since Sadat kicked out the Russians, has just been played by yet another wily Mideast politician: by essentially approving of Turkish attacks on Kurdish freedom fighters opposed to traditional oppression from Ankara in return for the right to fly U.S. warplanes against the Islamic State out of Turkey, Obama has undermined U.S. moral status and placed U.S. military tactics under the control of Erdogan. Obama has also shown the Kurds, his only ally in the Mideast, unless you are counting on Tehran, that Washington once again cannot be trusted. Why should Obama have paid Erdogan anything, much less all this? If Islamic State is such a threat that the U.S. must militarily intervene to save the Mideast from itself, then Turkey should be paying the U.S. since Turkey is on the front line. But, no, now Washington not only goes on bent knee to Tel Aviv and Riyadh but also to Ankara; so much for freedom of action.

So, Washington is, at the moment, rather stymied: the more it tries to work with the Kurds to build some sort of coalition to win in Syria, the more Ankara will undermine it. This mess does do something interesting, however: it opens the door to Moscow. Moscow can work with Syrian contacts to find a compromise because the U.S. really now has very little else to offer so can hardly say no. That approach by Moscow has always been obvious but hard to pull off since it logically entails working simultaneously with Tehran and the U.S./Israeli axis defined that as taboo. But the nuclear accord means that this taboo has now been removed. More, the ZeroHedge argument that Moscow needs a solution for domestic economic reasons will also push Putin in the direction of compromise. Hence, one can only assume that, Putin being himself a wily politician, Moscow is currently beating the bushes chatting up everyone it knows in the Mideast trying to persuade various Allawites and Iranians to think creatively about a compromise solution to the Syrian mess.

Now, we come to the hard part. In order for this to work, Tehran must do some really creative strategic thinking and decide whether or not a Syrian deal that will please Washington can also be considered in the strategic interests of Iran.


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