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, who’re accountable for the twenty first century’s bloodiest wars – met within the Kremlin Thursday to debate an growth of Moscow’s navy presence in Syria. 

The pact between two of America’s prime foes raises new questions on whether or not the Biden administration is in a defensive posture and quickly dropping its affect in a important area of the world.

“We expect that increasing the Russian presence in Syria is an effective factor,” Assad informed Russia’s state-controlled information company RIA in an interview. “Russia’s navy presence in any nation shouldn’t be based mostly on something momentary.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad meet on the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (Vladimir Gerdo, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photograph through AP)


When Putin intervened within the Syrian civil struggle in 2015, it helped tip the stability in Assad’s favor, guaranteeing the survival of the Syrian strongman regardless of Western calls for that he be toppled. Assad has waged a struggle in opposition to his inhabitants, ensuing within the killing of over 500,000 individuals, together with the homicide of Syrians with the usage of chemical warfare.

The potential beefed up presence of Russian troops and navy bases in Syria would current one other problem to the Biden administration’s Center East coverage. U.S. nationwide safety consultants see China and Russia outmaneuvering america in a area the place Washington has traditionally wielded nice affect. 

Rebekah Koffler, a former analyst on the U.S. Protection Intelligence Company, informed Fox Information Digital that Putin began to outmaneuver the U.S. within the Center East with President Obama, when Biden was his vp. 

“Putin tricked Obama and by proxy Biden into letting the Russians switch chemical weapons out of Syria, again in 2013. As an alternative, the Russians noticed a gap and seized the chance to construct up its navy presence, attempting to tip the stability within the Center East in Russia’s favor. Putin is constructing an anti-U.S. coalition: Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria,” she famous.

Koffler, who authored the ebook “Putin’s Playbook,” added that the Russian chief “desires the Biden administration to suppose that he will help with the Iran nuclear deal, a peace settlement in Syria, however in actuality, Putin is not going to do something that aligns with U.S. strategic pursuits, particularly now that U.S. is backing Ukraine. U.S. and Russia’s safety pursuits are diametrically opposed.”

Fox Information Digital reported this week that America’s three major adversaries – Russia, China and Iran – plan to carry mixed naval navy drills within the Gulf of Oman. Simply over every week in the past, China brokered a rapprochement deal between archenemies Saudi Arabia and the Iranians.

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

Syrian President Bashar Assad evaluations an honor guard throughout a welcome ceremony in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 14, 2023. (Sana through AP)


A spokesperson for the U.S. State Division informed Fox Information Digital, “The proof on Russia is obvious. Regardless of the place they’re concerned militarily, native civilians pay the worth for the Kremlin’s harmful playbook that kills civilians to the advantage of Putin. That is clear in Russia’s navy campaigns in Syria, Libya and Ukraine, the place they use navy and paramilitary forces to take advantage of civilians in battle zones to advance Moscow’s personal egocentric pursuits.”

The spokesperson added, “Russia’s navy marketing campaign in Syria in assist of the Assad regime has led to huge destruction, in addition to the demise or displacement of a whole lot of hundreds of civilians. These navy operations undermine situations for a political decision to the Syrian battle, and Russia has not exerted any actual effort to induce significant modifications within the Syrian authorities’s appalling habits towards its personal individuals. ” 

The State Division spokesperson pressured that “Russia’s focus ought to be on advancing a political decision in Syria as outlined by U.N. Safety Council Decision 2254, fairly than bringing extra struggling to the Syrian individuals.” Decision 2254, from eight years in the past, outlines a peace course of to cease the bloodshed in Syria.

Michael Rubin, a senior fellow and Mideast professional on the American Enterprise Institute, informed Fox Information Digital, “Standing by allies issues. Russia stood by its ally with out qualms. Not solely will Assad reward Putin, however this transfer sends a sign to each different chief within the area. This isn’t nearly Russia’s embrace of Syria. It’s about Russia’s courtship of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

Rubin added, “We’ve got to calibrate coverage to that actuality. The Syrian Kurds are allies and mates. If Turkey is backing Islamists proxies, and Russia is doubling down on Assad, we must always double down on the Kurds. They’re extra progressive, in a position fighters, and desire a pro-Western orientation. The query isn’t solely what america ought to do however what it shouldn’t do.”

Syria is a fragmented nation, with territory managed by Turkey, Syrian Kurds, Russia and Assad.

Rubin mentioned, “This confirms that Syria is not going to be unified. At finest, with Turkey occupying a zone and now Russia doubling down, Syria would be the new Nineteen Nineties-era Somalia, divided into zones of affect and ruled by completely different native warlords.”

Syrian refugees pose for a photograph after their tents flooded from the rain at a temporary refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese town of Al-Faour near the border with Syria.

Syrian refugees pose for {a photograph} after their tents flooded from the rain at a brief refugee camp within the jap Lebanese city of Al-Faour close to the border with Syria. (AP)


Rubin warned concerning the risks of sending assist to Syria’s regime. “Any funding we give to worldwide organizations below the guise of reconstruction assist to Syria will primarily reward a Russian proxy for mass homicide. Cash is fungible. What we give within the title of reconstruction primarily helps Assad and Putin construct a base. The truth that Assad provides this reveals the place his priorities are. Let’s not be naïve,” he mentioned.

Assad delivered to Moscow a sequence of tangible rewards throughout his go to. Assad informed Putin, “We imagine that if Russia has the will to broaden bases or enhance their quantity, it’s a technical or logistical problem.”

“Having extra bases in Syria is useful for Russia and Putin will probably settle for the supply,” Koffler warned. “Since Russian and U.S.forces function in proximity in Syria already, increasing Russia’s foothold within the area is giving Putin extra leverage and the Russian forces extra alternatives to gather intelligence on U.S. struggle preventing ways, navy {hardware}, and so forth. The Russians research U.S. methods of struggle completely, with the intention to discover vulnerabilities and develop counter-strategies.”

Syria stood beside Russia on the problem of Ukraine, Assad mentioned. “As a result of that is my first go to because the begin of the particular navy operation in Ukraine, I want to repeat the Syrian place in assist of this particular operation,” Assad informed Putin, based on a Kremlin transcript.

Syria acknowledges the territories of Ukraine that Russia has seized as Russian, Assad mentioned. “I say that these are Russian territories, and even when the struggle had not occurred, these are traditionally Russian territories,” Assad informed RIA.

Syrian men walk between buildings destroyed by bombs in Aleppo, Syria, on Oct. 3, 2012.

Syrian males stroll between buildings destroyed by bombs in Aleppo, Syria, on Oct. 3, 2012. (AP Photograph/Sana, File)


Assad’s years as president have been outlined by the battle that started in 2011 with peaceable protests earlier than spiraling right into a multi-sided battle that has fractured the Center Japanese nation and drawn in overseas mates and enemies.

He has stitched a lot of his state again along with the assistance of Russia and Iran, aided by the truth that his allies have been all the time extra dedicated to his survival than his enemies have been to his defeat.

Alongside the Hmeimim air base, from which Russia launches air strikes in assist of Assad, Moscow additionally controls the Tartus naval facility in Syria, its solely naval foothold within the Mediterranean, in use because the days of the Soviet Union.

Russia’s protection ministry mentioned in January that Russia and Syria had restored the al-Jarrah navy air base in Syria’s north to be collectively used. The small base east of Aleppo was recaptured from Islamic State fighters in 2017. Press queries despatched to the Russian authorities weren’t returned.

Reuters contributed to this report.