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Syria, Iran, and Turkey Openly Defy Obama, as Russia Regains Mideast Influence

Obama continually ends up with egg on his face, while Russia is shoring up its ties and influence in the Middle East ahead of a nuclear Iran.

by
Barry Rubin

Bio

May 13, 2010 - 1:08 pm
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The world is getting into the habit of making Obama look inept.

The U.S. sends a delegation to Damascus to wean Syria from Iran, and Syria promptly responds by inviting Iran’s president to the country and tightening the relationship. The U.S. praises Pakistan and sends billions in aid, and Pakistan responds by being less than cooperative in dealing with the Times Square bomber.

Now it’s Russia’s turn. Just hours after the Obama administration praised Russia for allegedly cooperating on sanctions against Iran — to justify pushing forward a bilateral nuclear weapons limitation agreement with Moscow — Russia eagerly responded by subverting U.S. Middle East policy.

Russian President Dimitry Medvedev visited Syria and Turkey, taking a very large entourage with him to work on trade and military cooperation agreements. In effect, these meetings marked another step in the creation of an anti-American alliance in the region with Russian backing.

How do we know about this alliance? Because Turkey, Syria, and Iran are openly declaring its existence. How do we know Russia is backing it? Because Medvedev is openly claiming this.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be a “friend,” and that Iran is using its nuclear program “for civilian purposes only.” He also said that Israel, not Iran, threatens regional stability.

Syrian government newspaper al-Baa’th declared, in so many words, that the Middle East is coming together in an alliance to reject Westernization, artificial borders, America, and Israel, while embracing various anti-Western conspiracies. What countries are in this new alliance?

Syria, Iran, and Turkey, with their great peoples and their lively peoples and their rejectionist [the Syrian term for radical, anti-Israel, and anti-American] policies are moving toward brotherhood.

The comments from Iran? President Ahmadinejad declared:

[The Americans] are forced to leave the region. … [The U.S.] government has no influence [to stop] … the expansion of Iran-Syria ties, Syria-Turkey ties, and Iran-Turkey ties. God willing, Iraq too will join the circle.

In its own way, Russia is joining the circle as well. Medvedev signed deals suggesting that Russia might help Turkey and Syria build nuclear reactors. Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Russian parliamentary foreign liaison committee, called Syria “a strategic partner” with Russia.

In Turkey, Medvedev and his hosts agreed to support Hamas merging with the Palestinian Authority, and insisted that the radical terrorist Islamist group be a full participant in any negotiations on Israel-Palestinian issues.

In the words of Turkish President Abdullah Gul, while standing next to Medvedev:

Unfortunately Palestinians have been split into two. … In order to reunite them, you have to speak to both sides. Hamas won elections in Gaza and cannot be ignored.

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