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These Guys Mean Business
Israel - Middle East
Friday, May 11, 2012
Alf Cengia

Last Monday Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russia’s President for another six years, his second run at the job. In his speech he affirmed that Russia would achieve its goals. He said that Russia would be ''a single, united people, if we hold our fatherland dear, strengthen Russian democracy, constitutional rights and freedoms.''

Yet it seems that it wasn’t all pomp and ceremony for everyone involved. Even while Putin might have been busy deciding on which color suit and tie to wear in preparation for his pending inauguration, some 400 protestors were pummeled and arrested by police. According to WorldNews:

“In the latest demonstrations [there have been others] on Sunday, police detained more than 400 people, including three opposition leaders, after tensions boiled over at a rally attended by about 20,000 people across the Moscow river from the Kremlin...Police hit protesters on the head with batons as they tried to stop demonstrators advancing towards them, carrying metal crowd barriers and throwing objects. The crowd fought back with flagpoles before the police eventually restored order.” (My comment added)

It kind of reminds me of the 1980 Blues Brothers scene where the brothers take a quiet elevator ride with the muzak playing, while there’s total pandemonium outside. The camera keeps panning from the chaos to the peaceful elevator ride. It’s a funny scene but that is where the similarity ends, at least for the Russian people.

Despite Putin’s rhetoric and insistence that the elections weren’t rigged, a significant sector of the Russian public is not convinced. As FrontPageMag notes:

“If the events of the past few weeks have proven anything, it’s that this view of the Russian public requires reassessment. On December 10th, some 60,000 people in Moscow and thousands more across the country poured out into the streets in a display of anti-government protest unprecedented in recent Russian history. Demanding a “Russia without Putin!” they called for the annulment of the elections and a new vote.” (Emphasis mine)

I’ve pointed to Putin’s single-minded characteristics in previous commentaries. He’s not the “shrinking violet” type. Putin won’t easily be dissuaded by an unhappy Russian public...or just about anyone else. He means business.

So, when we see news articles announcing the possibility that Russian troops are gathering around Iran’s borders in readiness for a western attack – then it’s probably time to take careful notice. To be precise, Russia is reacting to a possible summer military attack on Iran by Israel and possibly even the US. Russia is not only affirming its close alliance with Iran by sending out this strong message but it is also protecting its many regional interests. As one pundit puts it:

“Informed sources say that the Russians have warned of “unpredictable consequences” in the event Iran is attacked, with some Russians saying that the Russian military will take part in the possible war because it would threaten its vital interests in the region.”

Then there’s Syria. President Assad’s problems show no signs of abating – in fact they are escalating. He won’t quit and neither will the Syrian insurgents. Last month, the conflict spilled over the Turkish and Lebanese borders. Even the United Nations Interim Force (UNIFIL) got involved in the latter region.

Remember them?

They were the guys who kept informing Hezbollah of the Israeli military’s movements during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah conflict. Of course the UNIFIL people may well be feeling important at the moment due to the fact that they’ve had to deny a future involvement in Syria. Several factors would make a UNIFIL involvement in Syria more dangerous – for them at least - than the 2006 conflict, but that’s just an aside.

Like Putin, and in contrast to the late Muammar Gaddafi, Assad may prefer wearing designer suits and looking the dapper gentleman. But that doesn’t fool anyone. Bashar al-Assad’s actions during this prolonged conflict show that, like Putin, he also means business. And business is one important dynamic that keeps Russia tied up with Syria.

John Helmer notes the following:

“Western media claim that Russia is doing no more than protecting commercial interests in Syria are missing the point. Trade turnover between the two countries is small, and was dwindling before the recent troubles began over a year ago.”

Interestingly, despite these comments he goes on to catalogue a short summary of dealings between Russia and Syria. Anyone who has owned a business knows to look after ALL the pennies. Syria is important to Russia.

Then notably, Helmer adds:

“During the Soviet period, Syria ran up a debt to Moscow for arms of more than $13 billion. In 2005, $10 billion of that was written off on condition Damascus kept buying new arms from Moscow. The current arms order book is generally reported as worth about $3.5 billion. With enemies of long standing on each one of Syria's land borders, it is perfectly obvious that Syria must now depend on the sea for its lifeline. It is obvious too that the Kremlin intends to remind everyone that it should stay open.” (Emphasis mine)

How does all this affect Israel? Well it’s not good.

Israel’s existential issues have been well-summarized in a brief article by Ken Blackwell (via Ambassador Michael Oren) that appears in, of all places, the Huff Post. Note this:

“There are 10,000 rockets in Gaza, now controlled by the avowedly terrorist Hamas group. In Southern Lebanon, controlled by Hezbollah, there are an estimated 50,000 rockets. Syria is unraveling before our eyes. No one will miss the Assad regime in Damascus, but we do worry about the largest stash of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in the world -- which Assad controls. Might Assad's WMD fall into the hands of Hamas? Hezbollah? Who does the opposition to Assad link to?”

As analyst Joel Rosenberg reports, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu “pulled off a stunning political deal this week that some are interpreting as a prelude to war with Iran.” (Emphasis mine)

Prior to upcoming September elections, he has convinced his chef rival and leader of the Kadima party, Shaul Mofaz, to join his government. According to Rosenberg, Mofaz will become a Deputy Prime Minister. The inclusion of Mofaz and members of his party will give Netanyahu a coalition “comprising 94 of the 120 members of the Knesset.”

Then we come to that loveable Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood:

“Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca, or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem, Allah willing. Our cry shall be: Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem. Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem.”

It looks like the Middle East is getting hotter.

Did I mention that theses guys mean business?

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Those Dirty Rats

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