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

Obviously, bringing Hamas into negotiations or melding it together with the existing Palestinian Authority would guarantee the failure of any talks, and possibly result in Hamas takeover of the West Bank, anti-American Palestinian leadership, and the renewal of war with Israel.

Why is Russia doing this? Clearly, there are commercial considerations involved. Russia is desperate for money and export markets, including the ability to sell its weapons which -- being inferior to those of the United States -- only have a market of countries ineligible to buy American.

Yet commerce is only part of the picture. The current Russian leadership sees the United States as a rival, is jealous of its power, and is angry about losing the Cold War. The shrinking of their country from a mighty superpower to an impoverished wreck makes them steam, and they blame their fall on U.S. machinations. Building up Russian nationalism and returning the United States to enemy status is a way to mobilize popular support for the government.

And finally, there is a genuine ambition to rebuild the old Russian/Soviet empire and spheres of influence.

In short, this is a problem for U.S. leaders that isn’t going to go away. On her first visit to Moscow, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously declared that the Obama administration was going to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations. Now, Russia has defined that reset as to be largely -- of course, not fully -- a return to the pre-1991 era.

A false issue is the idea that Russia is going to have a problem with the Islamism of its new partners because of its own internal Muslim problem. On the contrary -- this alliance is a way to reduce the domestic threat.

By giving Turkey, Syria, and Iran an incentive to be friendly with Russia, Moscow is ensuring that they won’t intervene by backing revolutionary Islamist groups. Indeed, Iran has stayed away from such involvements -- Tehran even supports Russia’s ally, Christian Armenia, against Muslim-majority Azerbaijan.

Of course, there is no way that the United States can truly compete with Russia (and Iran) over Syria's loyalties. The Russians are prepared to fully back Syria’s policies of allying with Iran and returning Lebanon to the status of colony. Russia is happy to sell Syria arms (paid for by Iran).

Presumably, the Russians would encourage Syria not to launch even a Lebanon-based war against Israel, but that is one of the few positive notes.

The situation with Turkey is a bit more complex, since even the Islamist regime is wary of Russia. Yet here too, the Russians have sizable influence with a Turkish regime that has already moved much closer to Iran and Syria.

The big picture? The United States is being edged out of the position of primacy it has enjoyed in the Middle East for twenty years, which dates -- and this is no coincidence -- from the time of the USSR’s collapse.

With Iran on the verge of nuclear weapons, the strategic balance will shift even more. This outcome also makes Tehran even more attractive as a partner to Moscow.

The situation is very bad, heading towards worse, and made all the more worrisome by the failure of the current U.S. government even to realize what’s occurring.