Ирина Звягельская

Ирина Звягельская

Образование: Ленинградский государственный университет, 1960.
Кандидатская диссертация: "Роль армии в формировании внешней и внутренней политики Израиля", ИМЭМО, 1976; докторская диссертация: "Политика США в конфликтах на Ближнем и Среднем Востоке при администрации Картера и Рейгана", Институт востоковедения АН СССР, 1990.
Профессиональная деятельность: С 1970 по 1979 г. работала в ИМЭМО АН СССР. С 1979 г. по настоящее время работает в Институте востоковедения РАН. В 1992 преподавала в Американском университете (Каир). Читала лекции в университетах США, стран Западной Европы; регулярно выступает на международных конференциях и симпозиумах.
Зав. сектором международных вопросов Центра арабских исследований Института востоковедения РАН . C 1991 г. — зам. директора МОО Центр стратегических и политических исследований. С 2001 г. — профессор кафедры востоковедения МГИМО.
Автор более 100 печатных работ на русском, английском, немецком и французском языках, включая книги и главы в коллективных монографиях. Член диссертационных советов Института Востоковедения РАН и Института стран Азии и Африки.
Иностранные языки: английский, французский.

Научные интересы: Конфликтные ситуации, проблемы безопасности, международные отношения (преимущественно на Ближнем Востоке и в Центральной Азии).

Среда, 07 Февраль 2018 18:23

Russia and Israel: trust despite disagreements

There is a high degree of trust in the Russian-Israeli relations, Valdai Club expert Irina Zvyagelskaya believes. “We have disagreements on Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But we can maintain good relations despite these disagreements and understand each other’s concerns,” she said in an interview with valdaiclub.com.

On January 29, 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow and met with Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu’s aide Zeev Elkin described the trip as “very important.” “As always, such visits are very effective and, as always, effectiveness is due to the fact that the content of the talks remains between the two leaders,” he said in an interview with the Israeli Russian-language Ninth Channel. In turn, Russian president’s aide Yuri Ushakov said that the two leaders discussed bilateral relations and regional problems, including the Syrian settlement.

“The situation in Syria was discussed in several aspects indeed,” Irina Zvyagelskaya, chief researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with valdaiclub.com. “One aspect is our interaction, prevention of incidents. There is exchange of information between the military structures and this is of great importance for both sides. But the role of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria remains a much more painful issue for Israel. Israel maintains a very tough stance on this issue, fearing Iran’s strengthening near its borders.”

Because of the Hezbollah presence on the Lebanese-Israeli border, Israel has been saying for a long time that Iran is in his backyard, Zvyagelskaya stressed. Moreover, Israel and the Islamic movement have reached a level of mutual deterrence, which is unique in such an asymmetric conflict with military formations of Hezbollah not being a regular army.

According to Zvyagelskaya, “Israel’s top priority is its own security. It seeks to protect itself with methods it considers acceptable, and wants to have as few restrictions as possible in this regard,” she said.

“For our part, Russia cannot and should not become part of the complex system of regional relations,” Zvyagelskaya stressed. “We should resist attempts to make us part of the contradictions that exist there. Our position is that we are interested in stabilization in Syria and preservation of its statehood, that the country should not again turn into a hotbed of international terrorism.”

Another important aspect of the visit was, according to the expert, the fact that Netanyahu and Putin took part in events dedicated to the Holocaust Remembrance Day and the anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad. “Israel is categorically against rewriting the results of the World War II, and pays tribute to the Red Army and heroism of Soviet people during the war,” she said. “On this, we find a common language, especially because Red Army veterans who fought during the war still live in Israel.”

According to Zvyagelskaya, there is a high degree of trust in the two states’ relations. “We have disagreements on Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But we can maintain good relations despite these disagreements and understand each other’s concerns,” she concluded.

Article published in Valdai Club: http://valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/russia-and-israel-trust-disagreements/

Photo credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS

Я думаю, что все восприняли c большим удивлением и недоумением столь резкий шаг со стороны американского президента потому, что, несмотря на его предвыборные обещания, никто всё-таки не думал, что они воплотятся в действительность так быстро. Тем более, что с точки зрения ситуации на Ближнем Востоке, казалось бы, не существовало никаких обстоятельств, которые бы заставляли его действовать столь быстро и столь неожиданно. Мне кажется, что уже сейчас очевидно, что последствия этого шага могут быть очень серьезными. Я даже не буду подробно говорить о том, что заявил Эрдоган, который сказал, что разорвет отношения с Израилем. Его позиция понятна, он будет сейчас стремится максимально использовать эту ситуацию для того, чтобы укрепить свою роль в мусульманском мире с учетом тех сложностей, с которыми он сталкивается у себя дома. Но вопрос, мне кажется, на самом деле заключается не только в том, кто будет сейчас использовать то, что произошло, в своих интересах. Мне кажется, что проблема в том, что заявление Трампа разрушает те хрупкие альянсы, которые сейчас наметились на Ближнем Востоке. Я имею в виду определенное сближение между Израилем и государствами Персидского залива, которое происходит на антииранской базе. Мы все это знаем, это само по себе не говорит о прочности такой условной нормализации, но, тем не менее, это происходит. В сложившейся ситуации неизбежный взрыв эмоций на арабской улице заставит элиты действовать соответствующим образом. То есть какой-то намек на стабилизацию отношений между Израилем и суннитскими монархиями может быть сейчас очень быстро подорван. Во-вторых, мы можем прогнозировать и рост антиизраильских настроений в целом, и рост антиамериканских настроений. Хотя многие наблюдатели говорят, о том что всё-таки Трамп выберет такой мягкий вариант, будет признавать только Западный Иерусалим столицей Израиля, в действительности такие детали ни для кого на Ближнем Востоке не важны. Слышат только две вещи: «Иерусалим», «столица Израиля». Вот эти вещи будут играть сейчас против любой стабилизации ситуации. Я думаю, что то, что случилось, к сожалению, отражает незнание американским президентом того, что происходит на Ближнем Востоке, просто отсутствие профессионализма со стороны команды, которая с ним работает, и невозможность предсказать последствия его шага, которые на самом деле могут быть достаточно серьезными. 

 

Фото: Renewer/Fotolia

 

 

Профессор кафедры востоковедения МГИМО, профессор ИСАА при МГУ Ирина Звягельская о том, как Башару Асаду, тяжелому переговорщику, важен военный успех в сирийской войне, почему нас не устраивает буферная зона, что смена ближневосточных режимов политизирована, и — об американском дипломатическом хамстве как норме полемики.
Об этом и многом другом в программе «Открытая студия» рассказывает востоковед Ирина Звягельская.

Материал размещен на сайте "Свободная пресса".

Although Riyadh and Ankara are independent players whose interests are not always aligned with those of Washington, they will most likely support the deal promoted by the United States and Russia.
Earlier this week, Russia and the United States agreed on a new ceasefire for Syria that would take effect Saturday. Valdai Club expert Irina Zvyagelskaya believes the deal can seriously change the situation on the ground.

“This agreement is the only option for Syria that can de-escalate the conflict or at least lay the groundwork for de-escalation,” Zvyagelskaya, senior fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, told Valdaiclub.comin a telephone interview Wednesday.

“The deal has demonstrated once again that Russia and the US have common political interests. Both Russia and the United States recognize that the Syrian conflict has no military solution and a political mechanism must be launched,” she pointed out.

“It is important that Moscow and Washington, as they are trying to broker a peace deal, can rely on a broad group of countries, which share their goals,” she said referring to the International Syria Support Group (ISSG).

Zvyagelskaya singled out several problems she believes will arise during the deal implementation. “First of all, it will be hard to establish who observes the deal and who does not,” she said. “It means that those parties to the conflict which are ready to cease fire must explicitly claim that,” the scholar pointed out.

Russia has played a significant role by persuading the Syrian government to start negotiating with those opposition forces, which are ready for peace, Zvyagelskaya said. “Now it is crucial that the United States uses its clout to mitigate the positions of the forces it supports,” she added.

Asked if other countries of the region, which are known to support opposition forces in Syria, could prevent implementation of the deal, the scholar said she did not expect Turkey or Saudi Arabia to disrupt the agreement. “Although Riyadh and Ankara are independent players whose interests are not always aligned with those of Washington, they will most likely support the deal promoted by the United States and Russia,” Zvyagelskaya said.
 
Initially published by Valdai Club
Пятница, 11 Декабрь 2015 01:34

Россия и меняющийся Ближний Восток

Интересы и возможности

Ближний Восток всегда имел для России особое значение. Регион открывает путь к Средиземному морю и, соответственно, ко всем странам Восточного Средиземноморья, Ближнего Востока, Северной Африки. Для России любая исходящая отсюда военная угроза, сосредоточение иностранных армий, гражданские войны в расположенных здесь государствах, конфликты и террористические атаки — обоснованный повод для беспокойства. Более того, из-за проницаемости границ по периметру бывшего СССР Россия особенно уязвима перед потоком радикальных идей, террористов и вербовщиков, которые устремляются с Ближнего Востока на Кавказ и в Центральную Азию.

До событий «арабской весны» Москве удавалось выстраивать отношения с самыми разными региональными игроками, включая Иран, Израиль, некоторые арабские государства, движения ХАМАС и «Хезболла». Однако в условиях углубления межгосударственной и межконфессиональной конфронтации на Ближнем Востоке проблема конфликта интересов, стоящая перед российскими политиками, резко обострилась. Политика Москвы в отношении как Ближнего Востока в целом, так и отдельных государств стала менее сбалансированной. Необходимость выбора обусловливается в первую очередь новыми тенденциями и глубокими трансформациями, происходящими в регионе.

Политические процессы, развивающиеся на Ближнем Востоке, привели к изменению регионального ландшафта. Из-за обострения социальных, этнических, племенных, религиозных и идеологических противоречий многие арабские страны Ближнего Востока и Северной Африки переживают масштабный кризис. Массовые протесты, революции, восстания и перевороты нарушают внутриполитический баланс, бросают вызов местным элитам, выливаются в гражданские войны и угрожают самому существованию государственности. Многие исследователи, анализирующие феномен «арабской весны», указывают на то, что она была порождена кризисом ближневосточных национальных государств. Этнические, конфессиональные, региональные и местные связи оказались гораздо более жизнеспособными, чем можно было ожидать, исходя из парадигмы современности.

 

Сдвиги на ближневосточной политической арене были вызваны или сопровождались ростом агрессивности со стороны региональных акторов и мировых держав. При этом местные власти все чаще оказывают на ситуацию более сильное воздействие, чем внешние игроки. Они предпринимают успешные попытки укрепить позиции в регионе и распространить свое влияние за его пределы. И таких игроков немало — Иран, Саудовская Аравия, Катар, Турция, ОАЭ.

Мировые державы также внесли свой вклад в то, что ситуация в регионе стала еще менее управляемой. Попытки восстановить государственные институты в Ираке оказались удачными лишь частично. Межконфессиональные противоречия возобладали над политическими преобразованиями, и на место суннитских политиков и управленцев пришли в основном шииты. Вследствие принятия закона о борьбе с наследием партии «Баас» и роспуска иракских вооруженных сил профессионалы-сунниты были выброшены на улицу. Неудивительно, что через некоторое время многие из них вступили в ИГИЛ.

Важный элемент общей ближневосточной картины — углубление конфронтации между суннитами и шиитами. О напряженности в их отношениях известно давно, однако в последние годы появились факторы, способствовавшие серьезному обострению межконфессиональных противоречий и их политизации. В частности, преобладание шиитов во властных структурах Ирака после свержения Саддама Хусейна послужило сигналом для шиитских сообществ и групп в других странах. Движение «Хезболла» существенно активизировалось в Ливане. Поражение иракской военной машины и новая расстановка политических сил в Ираке привели к росту влияния Ирана в этой стране, в Персидском заливе и за его пределами. Причем Тегеран претендует на лидерство не только на Ближнем Востоке, но и во всем мусульманском мире. Еще более наглядный пример — соперничество между Ираном и Саудовской Аравией, которое наиболее явно проявилось в Йемене.

Наряду с шиитско-суннитскими противоречиями ситуация характеризуется глубоким расколом в лагере суннитов, который обусловливается трансграничной деятельностью экстремистской организации «Исламское государство». ИГИЛ позиционировало себя проводником глобального проекта по созданию халифата. Активисты ИГИЛ выступают противниками арабских национальных движений и государств. «Исламское государство» обладает огромными ресурсами и привлекательной идеологией, контролирует обширные территории и имеет сторонников по всему миру. Это абсолютно новое явление, так как ИГ не просто борется против всего, что противоречит его представлениям о мировом порядке, но и предлагает собственный проект государственного строительства.

Поскольку Ближний Восток уверенно выходит на передний план международных отношений, цели России в этом регионе обретают новые измерения.

Во-первых, Москва пытается положить конец вмешательству США и их союзников по НАТО во внутренние дела ближневосточных государств, нацеленному на смену режимов. Свержение диктаторов в Ираке и Ливии породило хаос, волны миграции и возникновение новых джихадистских группировок. По мнению российских аналитиков, такое вмешательство приобретает все более универсальный характер (недавний пример — события на Украине). Поэтому Москва стремится выработать новые правила мироустройства, согласно которым ни США, ни любое другое государство уже не смогут объявлять тот или иной режим нелегитимным и требовать его устранения. Российское руководство считает, что ООН следует разработать четкие критерии для разграничения истинного национального восстания и инспирированного внешними силами мятежа. С практикой «цветных революций» и вмешательством в дела государств с целью поддержки оппозиционных сил должно быть покончено.

 

Во-вторых, Россия была готова вести в регионе новую активную политику, призванную доказать ее незаменимость в качестве основного международного игрока. Об этом свидетельствуют подход Москвы к решению иранской ядерной проблемы и вмешательство в Сирии.

Третья задача может быть выполнена в случае успешного решения второй. Руководство России пыталось добиться отмены антироссийских санкций и выхода из политической изоляции, в которой страна оказалась после украинского кризиса. Западные санкции подвигли президента В. Путина на поиск новых дипломатических ходов и использование растущего разочарования арабов в Соединенных Штатах, как он и поступил в ходе визита в Египет, который был также отмечен сделкой о поставках оружия, спонсируемой Саудовской Аравией. В. Путин и принц Салман на «полях» Петербургского международного экономического форума подписали шесть соглашений о сотрудничестве — в освоении космоса, развитии инфраструктуры и в ядерной области. Согласно достигнутым договоренностям, Россия окажет помощь Королевству в строительстве 16 атомных станций.

Вовлеченность Москвы в сирийский кризис привела к росту напряженности в отношениях с Эр-Риядом, а подрыв российского авиалайнера над Синаем положил конец потоку российских туристов в Египет, что почти обрушило его туристический бизнес.

Террористические атаки во Франции и аресты боевиков в Бельгии и Германии обозначали новый поворот в развитии ситуации. Военная операция России против ИГИЛ и других террористических группировок в Сирии приобрела большую логичность и легитимность. Более того, Франция была названа российским союзником в контексте военной операции в Сирии.

Почему Сирия?

Военная операция России в Сирии и создание новой коалиции в составе Сирии, Ирана, «Хезболлы» и курдов для борьбы с общим врагом на сирийской территории привлекли повышенное внимание к ближневосточной политике Москвы. С военной и политической точек зрения, действия России не имеют аналогов. Для них характерно следующее: сочетание воздушных и морских сил; элемент неожиданности как на уровне стратегии, так и на уровне принятия решений; использование новых видов вооружений и военной техники; подготовка пилотов для работы на больших высотах. Российское военное вмешательство в конфликт в арабском мире не имеет исторических прецедентов — ни Российская империя, ни Советский Союз, в отличие от других мировых держав, никогда не воевали с арабами.

Чтобы понять, какие факторы подтолкнули Россию начать военную операцию, имеет смысл обратиться к истории советско-сирийских и российско-сирийских отношений. Превращение партии «Баас» в главного союзника СССР в арабском мире не было случайным. Сирия с ее светским режимом, демонстрировавшим экономическую и социальную состоятельность, превратилась в витрину советской помощи и поддержки. В то же время Сирия приобрела для Москвы даже большее значение, чем Египет, который еще на пике дружбы и сотрудничества искал возможности диверсифицировать свои связи и пытался дистанцироваться от крепких советских объятий.

Если для сирийского режима развитие отношений с СССР означало следование в фарватере советской политики, то для Москвы — большую внимательность к тревогам, фобиям, страхам сирийцев, что не всегда совпадало с широкими интересами Советского Союза на Ближнем Востоке. Например, сирийцы, находясь в состоянии перманентного горячего конфликта с Израилем, оказали влияние на политику СССР накануне войны 1967 г.

Хафез Асад, пришедший к власти в Сирии в 1971 г., попытался взять более реалистичный курс и обеспечить большую независимость внутренней и внешней политики страны. Огромная военная помощь и обучение сирийских военных позволили Дамаску одержать, пусть ограниченную, но психологически значимую победу в войне в октябре 1973 г. После того как в 1978 г. вмешательство США вынудило Анвара Садата подписать Кэмп-Дэвидские соглашения, Сирия стала главным союзником СССР в регионе.

 

В начале 1990-х годов относительное снижение значимости Ближнего Востока в российской внешней политике обусловливалось фундаментальной перестройкой системы международных отношений после развала Советского Союза. Отказ от конфронтации с Западом как ключевого компонента биполярного мира, ограниченность ресурсов России, постепенное формирование полицентрического мира при сохранении ведущей роли США, устранение идеологического фактора из процесса принятия внешнеполитических решений — все это не могло не повлиять на подход России к Ближнему Востоку.

Россия при президенте Б. Ельцине сохранила интерес к сотрудничеству с бывшими арабскими союзниками, хотя и в ограниченном объеме и без связывающих руки обязательств. Сирия осталась в списке российских партнеров, и на то были веские причины. Во-первых, Дамаск был должником Советского Союза, и вопросы погашения долга постоянно обсуждались в ходе двусторонних контактов. Во-вторых, сирийские вооруженные силы, оснащенные советскими системами оружия, нуждались в запчастях и других компонентах, которые можно было получить только от Российской Федерации. Москва, в свою очередь, стремилась остаться на ближневосточном рынке вооружений. В-третьих, Сирия продолжала играть лидирующую роль в регионе, в том числе и в том, что касалось перспектив арабо-израильского урегулирования. Поэтому Москва была вынуждена учитывать позицию Дамаска по палестинской проблеме и даже пыталась повлиять на нее, чтобы не потерять традиционную вовлеченность в процесс мирного урегулирования на Ближнем Востоке.

Ситуация изменилась после смерти Х. Асада и прихода к власти его сына Башара. Последний никогда не был так близок к Москве, как его отец. Если бы не гражданская война и иностранное вмешательство в Сирию, политика России в отношении этой страны не стала бы столь активной.

Намерение Москвы предотвратить падение режима Б. Асада обусловливается следующими соображениями.

Во-первых, Россия выступает против создания предпосылок к повторению ливийского сценария (Россия в этом случае чувствовала себя обманутой) или «цветной революции».

Во-вторых, крах сирийского режима чреват чрезвычайно деструктивными последствиями для всего региона. Например, в голову приходит вариант с захватом Дамаска боевиками ИГИЛ и воплощением в жизнь идеи халифата. При этом ситуация становится все более драматической. Достаточно сказать, что ИГИЛ и другие радикальные исламистские группировки контролируют 80% сирийской территории. В практическом плане Россия предпочла бы сохранить в Сирии светский режим, который можно было бы склонить к проведению необходимых реформ и предотвратить распространение радикального исламистского проекта на другие страны Ближнего Востока и за его пределы. Восстановление сирийского государства позволило бы Москве упрочить свои позиции в регионе, в частности получить на средиземноморском побережье инфраструктуру, а именно — модернизированную военно-морскую базу в Тартусе для заправки и ремонта кораблей ВМФ, а также авиабазу в Латакии. Такая логика вполне убедительно объясняет действия России в Сирии, которые часто интерпретируют исключительно как поддержку Б. Асада. К сожалению, некоторые российские пропагандисты из кожи вон лезут, чтобы внедрить это ошибочное суждение в общественное сознание.

В-третьих, борьба против ИГИЛ и других террористических группировок нужна России по внутриполитическим соображениям. Тысячи российских граждан с Северного Кавказа, Татарстана и Башкортостана уехали воевать на стороне ИГИЛ. Не исключено, что когда-нибудь они захотят вернуться домой. Не менее опасна с точки зрения безопасности и деятельность ИГИЛ в Центральной Азии, учитывая отсутствие визового режима и проницаемость границ.

За и против военной операции

 

Активность России в Сирии может иметь как положительные, так и отрицательные последствия. Политические дивиденды можно получить от демонстрации решительности, повышения международной роли и ответственности Российской Федерации, способности к сотрудничеству в условиях кризиса с самыми разными субъектами (хотя и с разной степенью успешности), будь то США, ЕС, Иран, Ирак, Египет, Израиль, «Хезболла», Саудовская Аравия, руководство Сирии или часть сирийской оппозиции. Весомый вклад России в коллективные усилия по достижению урегулирования может вернуть стране международное доверие, которого сегодня так не хватает.

Москва способна влиять на Б. Асада, известного своим упрямством, отсутствием стратегического видения и отказом от даже самых незначительных компромиссов. Для Б. Асада уход со сцены в конце переходного периода или даже раньше неприемлем. Для него туманное будущее политического наследия, оставленного ему отцом, — своего рода личная травма. Сирия долгие годы управлялась его семьей, и, судя по всему, Б. Асаду невыносима сама мысль, что он не сумел сохранить эту систему. Тем не менее скоординированные международные усилия могли бы склонить его к принятию итогов переговорного процесса и национальных выборов, равно как и гарантий, которые могли бы быть ему предоставлены. Однако основания для осторожного оптимизма не стоит переоценивать.

Для России военное вмешательство в Сирии сопряжено с серьезными рисками. Оно уже заметно осложнило отношения с Турцией, которая с самого начала конфликта выступала с антиасадовских позиций. Сегодня Анкара поддерживает радикальную оппозицию в лице организаций «Джабхат ан-Нусра» и «Ахрар аш-Шам», пропускает боевиков и волонтеров через свою границу в Сирию, а вместо ИГИЛ бомбит курдов. По мнению турецких лидеров, военная операция России в Сирии ущемляет интересы их страны. Рост напряженности привел к тому, что российский бомбардировщик

Су-24 был сбит турецким истребителем F-16. Это угрожает двусторонним отношениям и ставит под сомнение саму концепцию создания широкой международной коалиции против ИГИЛ. Членство Турции в НАТО только ухудшает ситуацию. Очевидно, что для разрешения этого конфликта нужны холодные головы, но пока неясно, будет ли президент Р. Эрдоган заинтересован в снижении остроты кризиса.

Весьма вероятно ухудшение отношений и с Саудовской Аравией, которые только недавно улучшились, а также с другими странами Персидского залива. Для них присутствие в рядах сформированной Россией коалиции Ирана и «Хезболлы», сражавшихся с сирийской армией, абсолютно неприемлемо.

Не исключен рост напряженности и в отношениях с Ираном. Сегодня Иран и Россия выступают на одной стороне в борьбе против общего врага. Однако в своих попытках спасти сирийское государство Россия может оказаться в сложном положении, если иранское присутствие в Сирии серьезно укрепится.

Возможны и трения с Израилем, предпочитающим видеть над Сирией открытое небо, чтобы израильские ВВС могли действовать свободно в случае крайней необходимости. Израильтянам гораздо важнее сдерживать «Хезболлу», чем воевать с ИГИЛ, и они уже бомбят ее позиции в Сирии. Кроме того, Израиль обеспокоен тем, что иранские вооруженные силы могут стать сильнее, приобретя в Сирии военный опыт.

Наконец, ИГИЛ постоянно угрожает России террористической войной на ее территории. Теракты в Париже в ноябре 2015 г. еще раз показали, что к этим угрозам следует относиться очень серьезно.

Каждая война обычно имеет свою логику. Итак, военная операция, нацеленная на быструю победу, требует значительного наращивания сил. Затяжная война не приносит положительных результатов и становится контрпродуктивной. По мнению некоторых экспертов, в конечном итоге Россия может быть вынуждена развернуть наземную операцию в Сирии со всеми вытекающими последствиями. Если наступление сирийской армии и ее союзников захлебнется, изолированных ударов с воздуха для разгрома экстремистов будет недостаточно. Придется ли России посылать в Сирию свои войска? Ответа на этот вопрос пока нет.

Нельзя игнорировать тот факт, что присутствие в Сирии шиитских союзников Москвы не добавляет ей популярности в суннитских странах и среди части исламского сообщества в самой России.

Перспективы освобождения сирийских территорий по-прежнему туманны. Хотя «Группа двадцати» договорилась в Вене о сохранении территориальной целостности Сирии, на деле международное сообщество может прийти к варианту «малой Сирии» без какой-либо ясности в отношении остальных ее частей. Даже если сирийские войска и их союзники смогут добиться значительного прогресса, вопросы, кто и каким образом будет обеспечивать управляемость на отвоеванных территориях, кто оплатит их восстановление, остаются без ответа. Иными словами, военная победа может стать лишь началом движения в неизвестность, а само понятие победы будет все больше размываться и становиться все менее очевидным.

Террористические атаки в Париже изменили направленность встречи по Сирии, состоявшейся в ноябре 2015 г. в Вене. На встрече подчеркивалось, что ИГИЛ — явная угроза, которую нельзя нейтрализовать без разрешения сирийского кризиса и налаживания политического процесса. В результате переговоров на высоком уровне было достигнуто согласие относительно организации диалога между правительством Б. Асада и сирийской оппозицией до конца 2015 г. Ожидается, что выборы в Сирии пройдут в следующие 18 месяцев.

Переход от международных дискуссий к реальным действиям будет непростым, учитывая расхождение целей и подходов вовлеченных в конфликт сторон. Политический процесс вполне может дать России шанс установить доверие и улучшить отношения с глобальными и региональными игроками. Важно, чтобы нынешний и возможные в будущем кризисы не перечеркнули эту тенденцию.

 

Изначально опубликовано на сайте РСМД: http://russiancouncil.ru/inner/?id_4=6978#top-content

Пятница, 11 Декабрь 2015 01:31

Russia in a Changing Middle East

Interests and opportunities

The Middle East has always had a special meaning for Russia. The area provides access to the Mediterranean Sea, linking Russia with the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa. Any threat of war, a concentration of foreign armies, civil wars in the states located there, conflicts and terrorist attacks can cause concern to Russia, given that the border around the perimeter of the former Soviet Union is not well fortified, and the flow of radical ideas, terrorist fighters and recruiters into the Caucasus and Central Asia can make Russia particularly vulnerable.

Before the Arab Spring Russia managed to build relationships with different players in the Middle East, including Iran, Israel, a number of Arab states, Hamas and Hezbollah. Under today's conditions of deepening interstate and inter-confessional confrontation in the Middle East, the problem of conflicting interests has become very acute for the Russian policy makers. Russia's policy in and towards the Middle East has become more biased. A choice of options was caused mostly by new trends and profound changes in the region itself.

Political processes developing in the Middle East have marked the formation of a new regional landscape. As a result of powerful social, ethnic, tribal, religious, and ideological contradictions many Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa have suffered most serious crisis. Mass protests, revolutions, revolts, coups seriously violated domestic political balances, challenged local elites, turned into civil wars and questioned the preservation of statehood itself. Many authors who have been analyzing the Arab Spring phenomenon draw attention to the fact that its causes and results were the crisis of the nation-states in the Middle East. Ethnic, sectarian, confessional identities, local loyalties and solidarity groups have turned to be much more viable than it could have been expected within a paradigm of a modernity.

 

Domestic developments in the region were either caused or accompanied by much more militant policies of regional actors and global powers. By the degree of the impact on the situation regional powers have been increasingly overplaying external actors. They are successfully trying to strengthen their role in the region and to spread their influence beyond its borders. The list is long enough -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, UAE .

Global powers also contributed to making the situation even less manageable. Attempts to reestablish institutions in Iraq were only partially successful. Sectarianism turned to dominate political transformation; Sunni politicians and managers were replaced mostly by Shiites. The law on "debaathization" and the dissolution of the Iraqi armed forces put many Sunni professionals on the street. No wonder that later on a significant number of them joined the ranks of ISIS.

An important element of the Middle East scene is the deepening Sunni-Shiite confrontation. The tensions between the two are not a new phenomenon. However, in recent years a number of factors contributed to the strengthening of interconfessional tensions and to their politicization. For example, the predominance of Shiites in various institutions in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein gave a signal to Shiite communities and groups in other countries. Hezbollah became much more active in Lebanon. The defeat of Iraqi military machine and the new balance of political forces in Iraq have led to the consolidating of Iran's role in Iraq, in the Gulf and beyond, of its claim to leadership in the Middle East and in the Muslim world. Even more obvious was the Iranian-Saudi rivalry. Especially clear it has been manifested in Yemen.

Along with heightened Shiite-Sunni contradictions the situation was also marked by a deep split in the Sunni camp. The reason of it was a cross-border activities of an extremist organization - the Islamic State. ISIS has positioned itself as a champion of a global project - the caliphate. Its activists denounce and condemn the Arab national movements and states. The Islamic State has huge resources and ideological appeal, control vast territories, and unites supporters from around the world. This is a new phenomenon, since it has not only been fighting against all that is contrary to its concept of the world order, but has put forward its own project of state-building.

With the Middle East coming to the forefront of international relations Russian objectives in the region have acquired new dimensions.

First, Moscow has tried to put an end to the interference of the US and its NATO allies into domestic affairs of the Middle East states motivated by a regime change goal. The toppling of dictators (Iraq, Lybia) has resulted in chaos, new waves of migration and the emergence of new jihadist groups. According to Russian analysts, such interference is becoming more universal and its most recent manifestation was evidenced in Ukraine. Thus, Moscow has been trying to create new rules for the world order. These rules imply that neither the United States nor anyone else could declare one or another regime as illegitimate and demand its dismissal. Russian leadership believes that the UN should develop clear criteria to distinguish between genuine national uprising and rebellion inspired by outside forces. The practice of "color revolutions" and the use of intervention to support the opposition should be renounced.

 

Second, Russia was ready to proceed with a new activist policy in the region which was to prove its indispensability as a major international player. Hence, it's policy vis-a-vis Iranian nuclear program and its intervention in Syria.

Third objective can be reached as a result of the success of the second. Russian leadership has been trying to overcome sanctions and political isolation imposed on the country after the Ukraine crisis. Western sanctions were a factor leading Mr. Putin to seek new diplomatic openings and exploit growing Arab frustrations with the US as he did during a visit to Egypt, which also included a Saudi-financed arms deal. Mr. Putin and Prince Salman on the sidelines of a St. Petersburg economic forum reportedly signed six deals, including contracts on space cooperation, infrastructure development, and a a nuclear cooperation agreement that could see Russia helping to build up to 16 atomic power stations in the kingdom.

Russian involvement into Syria has aroused tensions with the Saudis, while the explosion of the Russian Airbus over Sinai stopped the flow of Russian tourists to Egypt thus almost bringing down the Egyptian tourist industry.

The terrorist attacks in France and arrests of terrorists in Belgium and Germany have marked a new turn of the situation. Russian military operation against ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria has acquired additional logic and legitimacy. What's more, France was called Russian ally in the course of military operation in Syria.

Why Syria?

The Russia's military operation in Syria and the creation of a new coalition (Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Kurds) to fight the enemy on the ground has drawn greatest attention to the policy of Russia in the Middle East. From a military and a political point of view, Russia's actions are unprecedented. The combination of air and naval forces; an element of surprise both at strategic level and at the level of decision-making; new types of arms and equipment, high flight training of pilots. Russian military intervention in the conflict in the Arab world has no historical precedent - unlike other global powers neither the Russian Empire nor the Soviet Union ever fought with the Arabs.

To answer the question what factors prompted the Russian Federation to start a military operation, it makes sense to look at the history of Soviet-Syrian and Russian-Syrian relations. A transformation of Syrian Baathists into the main Soviet ally in the Arab world was not accidental. Syria as a secular regime and one of socially and economically effective had become a kind of showcase for the Soviet aid and support. Syria had acquired for Moscow even greater significance than Egypt, which even at the height of friendship and cooperation sought to diversify its ties and tried to distance itself from a tight embrace of the USSR.

While for the Syrian regime the development of the relationship with the USSR meant its following in the footsteps of Soviet policy, for Moscow it meant lending a more responsive ear to Syrian concerns, phobias, fears, which sometimes did not coincide with broad Soviet interests in the Middle East. For example, the Syrians, who had been in a permanent hot conflict with Israel, affected the Soviet policy on the eve of the 1967 war.

Hafez al-Assad, after coming to power in 1971, made a bid for a more realistic course and a greater autonomy in Syria's domestic and foreign policy. Huge military aid and training of Syrian military enabled Syria to achieve a very limited, but psychologically important gain in the October 1973 war. Syria became the number one Soviet ally after the US mediation had brought Anwar Sadat to sign the Camp David Accords in 1978.

 

In the early 1990s a relative decrease in importance of the region in Russia's priorities was dictated primarily by a fundamental reformation of the system of international relations after the collapse of the USSR. The rejection of confrontation with the West as the main component of the bipolar world; limited resources of Russia; the gradual formation of a polycentric world with the leading role of the USA still maintained; elimination of the ideological factor in the foreign policy decision-making - all this could not but affect the Russian approach to the Middle East.

Russia under President Boris Eltsin kept an interest in cooperation with the former Arab allies, though in limited amounts and without binding obligations. It meant that Syria had remained on the list and there were good reasons for it. First, Damascus was still a Soviet debtor; issues related to the resolution of this problem were constantly discussed at the bilateral meetings. Second, the Syrian army, once armed with Soviet weapons, was still in need of spare parts and supplies that could be obtained only from the Russian Federation. In turn, Russia was striving to stay on the arms market in the Middle East. Third, Syria has continued to play a leading role in the region, including its impact on the prospects of the Arab-Israeli conflict settlement. Accordingly, the Russian Federation had to take into account the position of Damascus towards the Palestinian problem and even try to influence it, since Moscow wished to retain its traditional involvement in the Middle East peace process.

The situation has changed after the death of Hafez al-Assad and Bashar's access to power. The last has never been as close to Moscow as his father; were it not for the civil war and foreign interference in Syria, Russian policy towards this country would have not become as activist. Moscow's intention to prevent the overthrow of the Assad regime was caused by the following considerations. First, the Russian Federation opposed the creation of preconditions for the repetition either of the Libyan scenario ( Russia felt to be deceived in the case) or that of a color revolution.

Second, the events in Syria in case of the regime collapse could have had a powerful destructive consequences for the entire region. An option would be a capture of Damascus by ISIS with an idea of caliphate almost coming true. Meanwhile the situation on the ground has been getting more and more dramatic. Suffice it to say that ISIS and other Islamic radical groups got in control up to 80 per cent of Syrian territory. In practical terms, the Russian Federation would prefer the preservation of the secular regime in Syria, which may possibly be encouraged to carry out necessary reforms and to prevent a spillover of radical Islamist project to other countries in the Middle East and beyond. A resurrection of Syrian statehood would secure Moscow's foothold in the area, including the infrastructure on the coast such as a modernized naval base in Tartus (providing refueling, repair, etc.) required for the Russian navy in the Mediterranean, and an airbase in Latakia . This logic can explain Russia's actions vis-a-vis Syria, which is often interpreted solely as support for Assad. Unfortunately certain Russian propagandists have contributed a lot to this misperception.

Third, the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups is caused for Russia by domestic concerns. Thousands of Russian citizens from the North Caucasus, from Tatarstan and Bashkortostan have already fled to fight on the side of ISIS. Their departure does not mean that they will not come back some day. No less dangerous from the security point of view, is the activities of ISIS in Central Asia, given the absence of a visa regime and porous borders.

Pros and cons of military operation


 

Russian activism in Syria may have for it both positive and negative consequences. Political gains may proceed from demonstration of determination, increased international role and responsibility of the Russian Federation, its ability to cooperate under crisis with a variety of powers - the US, EU, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia, the Syrian leadership, part of the Syrian opposition (although with different degree of success). A significant contribution of the Russian Federation to the collective efforts to achieve a settlement could engender international trust, so much needed at the moment.

Moscow has leverage on Assad, who is known for his stubbornness, lack of vision, and rejection of even minor compromises. For Assad his departure at the end of the transitional period or even before would not be acceptable. For him an obscure future of his political heritage, built up by his father, seem to be a sort of a personal trauma. Syria was ruled by his family for over the years, and a thought that he could not keep this system intact is, probably, unbearable to Bashar. Still coordinated international efforts could make him accept the outcome of the eventual negotiations and national elections as well as guarantees which could be extended to him. This said, the reasons for a cautious optimism should not be overestimated.

Military involvement in Syria is fraught with serious risks for Russia. It has already strongly affected Russian relations with Turkey. From the very beginning Turkey took anti-Assad stand. It extended support to the radical opposition like Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, allowed Islamic fighters and volunteers to snake through its border into Syria, it preferred to bomb the Kurds, rather than ISIS. Turkish leaders believe that Russian military operation in Syria has been contrary to the Turkish interests. The increasing tensions resulted in the shooting down of the Russian SU-24 by the Turkish F- 16. This threatens to endanger bilateral relations and to put a concept of wide international coalition under question. The fact that Turkey is a NATO member makes the situation even worse. It's obvious that cool heads are needed, but it's not clear if President Erdogan would be interested in defusing the crisis.

The worsening of recently improved relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states is also possible. For them the presence of Iran and Hesbollah who have been fighting along with the Syrian army in the Russia's coined up coalition is totally unacceptable.

Certain tensions with Iran are not excluded either. Now Iran and Russia are on the same side against a common enemy. However a significant Iranian presence in Syria may put Russia protecting Syrian state, in a difficult position.

There could be some friction with Israel as well. The Israelis have been trying to keep open sky over Syria for the Israeli air force to operate freely in case of emergency. A containment of Hezbollah is much more important for Israel than the fight against ISIS. Israeli bombing of Hezbollah positions in Syria have already taken place. Israel is also concerned that the Iranian army will become stronger due to a military experience in Syria.

Finally, ISIS have been continuously threatening Russia with terrorist war on its soil. The November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris proved once again that these threats should be taken very seriously.

Any war tends to acquire a logic of its own. So, a military operation, which is required to achieve a quick victory, implies a significant increase in strength. Sluggish war does not bring positive results, and becomes counterproductive. Some experts fear that Russia may eventually be forced to start ground operation with all related consequences. If the offensive of the Syrian army and its allies run out of steam, the airstrikes alone would not be able to defeat the extremists. Whether Russia will be forced then to deliver its own boots on the ground is a question that has no response right now.

One cannot ignore the fact that Shiite allies of the Russian Federation in Syria do not add to its popularity in the Sunni states, including a part of the Islamic community in Russia itself.

Prospects for liberation of the Syrian territories remain vague. Despite the Vienna agreement among the 20 that the territorial integrity for Syria shall kept intact, realistically speaking the international community might end up with a "small" Syria, having taken for granted an uncertain future of its other parts. Even if the Syrian troops and their allies will be able to make significant progress, it is unclear who and how will ensure good governance in the territories, and who will provide enormous financial assistance for their recovery. In other words, a military victory could be just the beginning of an unknown path with the notion of victory becoming increasingly blurred and non-obvious.

The focus of the November 2015 meeting on Syria in Vienna was changed by Paris terrorist attacks. It was stressed that ISIS is an overt threat; it cannot be defeated without ending the crisis in Syria which requires a political process. High-level talks have produced an agreement to seek meetings between the opposition and the government of President Bashar al-Assad by year's end. The elections in Syria are supposed to take place within next 18 months.

The move from international discussions to action will not be easy, given the differences of goals and approaches of the parties involved. For Russia, a political process may open up a chance of improving relations and building trust with global and regional actors. It's important not to allow present and probably upcoming crises to undermine this trend.

 

INITIALLY PUBLISHED ON THE RIAC WEB-SITE: http://russiancouncil.ru/en/inner/?id_4=6978#top-content

Предвыборная кампания в Израиле по мере приближения дня голосования (17 марта 2015 г.)  привлекает к себе все больше внимания. Нынешние выборы являются очередными внеочередными выборами. За 20 месяцев пребывания у власти правительство, включившее в себя разные политические партии при доминировании Ликуда и правых в целом, пережило непростое время. Война в Газе, разногласия по вопросу бюджета, попытка  провести проект закона о еврейском характере государства, и наконец выдвинутые недавно обвинения в коррупции против Нетаньяху и его жены в комплексе будут оказывать влияние на предстоящий выбор избирателя. Наряду с этими факторами  существуют достаточно устойчивые политические тренды, которые скорее "работают"  на правых.  Однако центристко-левый блок также стал набирать очки, фактически сравнявшись с Ликудом.

​В настоящее время правый  блок Ликуд во главе с Биньямином Нетаньяху  и его оппонент  блок  "Сионистский лагерь", возглавляемый Ицхаком Герцогом и Ципи Ливни получают, в соответствии с предварительными оценками, почти равное число голосов. Так, согласно опросу  общественного мнения, проведенному газетой "Гаарец" в начале февраля 2015 г.,   Ликуду прочат 25 мест в Кнессете, лишь на два места больше, чем "Сионистскому лагерю".  Столько незначительный разрыв среди основных претендентов свидетельствует о том, что в конечном итоге в ходе голосования чаша весов может качнуться в любую сторону. Главный вопрос будет заключаться в том, у кого в случае победы будет больше шансов создать коалицию. 

​Многое будет зависеть от того, насколько центристам и левым удастся расширить свою поддержку за счет привлечения  части правых избирателей   - название их блока ("Сионистский лагерь") явно  нацелено на более идеологизированную израильскую аудиторию. Неожиданно объявив о досрочных выборах, Нетаньяху намеренно поставил своих политических противников перед необходимостью действовать быстро с целью перехватить политическую инициативу. И здесь проблемы есть и у левых и у правых. Дело в том,  что программы  обоих блоков выглядят скорее параллельными, чем конкурирующими. Так, левые делают больший акцент на социальные вопросы, что, безусловно важно для избирателя, но в плане безопасности его надежды традиционно связаны с Ликудом. Евреи в Израиле четко  разделяют два понятия - безопасность государства и личная безопасность. Если безопасность государства укрепилась в условиях развала и дестабилизации в арабском мире, то проблема личной безопасности становится  более острой из-за роста терроризма. Для еврейского населения Израиля характерен когнитивный диссонанс, который непосредственно влияет на политический выбор избирателя. С одной стороны,  Израиль - самое сильное и эффективное  в военном отношении государство на Ближнем Востоке. С другой стороны, жизни евреев по-прежнему находятся под угрозой,  причем не только на Ближнем Востоке, но даже  в спокойной и  безопасной Европе.  Отсюда происходит и удивительное совпадение оценок избирателями успешности предыдущего правительства и их же уверенностью вновь  увидеть на посту премьер-министра Нетаньяху.    В конце января 65 % опрошенных были недовольны политикой Нетаньяху на посту премьера. И они же заявили,  что скорее всего он  вновь станет премьером. При  этом только 30%  опрошенных действительно хотят видеть его  в кресле премьера.  Это, конечно, немного, но у Ицхака Герцога шансов занять этот пост еще меньше  -  лишь 11 % считают его подходящим кандидатом.

​Таким образом центристам и левым, если они хотят увеличить свое представительство,  необходимо, наряду с социально-экономической повесткой дня, сделать больший акцент на урегулировании палестинской проблемы, на неких новых идеях расширения сотрудничества в сфере безопасности с рядом арабских государств, прежде всего, с Египтом и Иорданией. Центристско-левая коалиция могла бы, как считают ее сторонники, выступить  за возобновление переговоров с палестинцами, замораживание поселений, диалог с арабскими государствами на основе арабской инициативы, за поиск решений для сектора Газы вместе с Египтом и Иорданией. Когда речь заходит о безопасности, и правые и левые говорят об одном и том же  -- исламском  терроризме, Иране и прочем, но методы у них разные. Например, левые говорят, что проблему Ирана надо решать вместе с США, а для того, чтобы вместе с арабами бороться против ИГ и других экстремистов, надо решать проблему палестинцев. Для правых оккупация фактически сакральна. И они будут делать все, чтобы сохранить поселения, а значит и военное присутствие.

​Что же представляет собой ныне израильское общество, к которому обращаются ведущие политические силы? Прежде всего, оно остается фрагментированным. По мнению   израильских исследователей,  существует и все больше обостряется конфликт двух народов внутри еврейского населения Израиля. Происходит постоянное увеличение численности ортодоксов и ультраортодоксов  (харедим).  Являясь выходцами  из   бедных  необразованных слоев  из небольших городков,  они очень консервативны. Для них  предпочтительно,  чтобы вся жизнь в Израиле регламентировалась религиозными установками. Представители образованного класса, жители крупных городов составляют в Израиле общество постмодерна. Эти две части еврейского народа  имеют разные приоритеты, взгляды  и представления. Для ортодоксов мирный процесс не важен и не нужен, и они остаются  резервом для правых и религиозных партий, причем  демографический фактор явно  на их стороне.

​Наконец, резервом для правых остается и значительная часть израильских граждан, иммигрировавших из бывшего СССР. Они выступают за сильное государство, за решительность и жесткость, что в их глазах ассоциируется с правыми. Тем более, что в отношении  социализма у них осталось своего рода генетическое отторжение.

​Свою роль играет  и активность избирателя на выборах. В целом для Израиля характерна высокая явка, но распределяется она неравномерно. Среди харедим и религиозных евреев она составляет 95%, у поселенцев - 85%, а среди  городской  части населения не превышает 70%. Соответственно, у  правых больше шансов.

​И все  же учитывая то, что ныне оба блока претендуют на практически равное число голосов, возникает вопрос о перспективах формирования жизнеспособного правительства. В случае победы и Ликуд и "Сионистский лагерь" получат возможность создания правительств узкой коалиции, т.е. либо правое узкое правительство, либо узкое  центристко-левое. Такие правительство малоустойчивы, им трудно проводить через Кнессет важные решения. Кроме того, создавая узкую коалицию, Нетаньяху столкнется и с политическими соперниками, прежде всего, с Авигдором Либерманом, лидером партии  НДИ (Наш дом Израиль) и   Моше Кахлоном, покинувшем ряды Ликуда и создавшем в ноябре 2014 года свою партию Кулану (Мы все). При  создании узкой коалиции торг с ними может оказаться очень нелегким.

​Для Герцога и Ливни будущая узкая коалиция означает,  что правительство может оказаться  еще более шатким и уязвимым, чем правое. Не ясно, смогут ли они вообще создать такую коалицию или после неудачных попыток им, в соответствии с  израильским законодательством,  придется передать  это право Ликуду. ​

​Не исключено, что решением для обоих блоков могло бы стать правительство широкой коалиции. Как полагают некоторые израильские наблюдатели, Нетаньяху не всегда был успешным премьером, но он может быть надежным партнером. Наконец, правительство широкой коалиции на базе обоих блоков  поможет отсечь самых непримиримых ультраправых, что в целом отвечало бы национальным интересам Израиля. ​

Источник: МГИМО Университет

The solution of the Palestinian problem did not come closer last year, though some new tendencies in the approaches of the main interested parties have emerged in the context of controversial and rather dramatic events. The decision to address the UN Security Council to recognize the Palestinian state and cease the Israeli occupation by November 2017 was made by Mahmud Abbas as an alternative strategy due to the several factors. Firstly, obviously, he has come to the conclusion that in the current circumstances the political solution of the problem through the negotiations with Israel seems increasingly less obvious. The US have tried to monopolize the settlement process, but the attempts of John Kerry, the Secretary of State, to relaunch the peace process were in vain, having even created irritation of Israeli government. The Quartet of mediators was still marginalized and was not assuring the continuation of the talks, while the attention of the majority of the international community was taken by the tragic events in Iraq and Syria that are also connected with the victorious march of the ISIS militants. This organization which has astonishing financial capabilities, ideological attractiveness, and which enjoys large support from the part of population from the Middle East and other countries despite its extreme cruelty, has filled the major part of political and media space. Secondly, in the current situation Mahmud Abbas felt the decrease of support from his electorate, mainly from the increasingly radical youth, which demands active actions. There is no accident that the HAMAS support by the Palestinians has greatly increased after the Israeli operation in Gaza (7 June – 26 August 2014) under the code name “Protective Edge”. Despite the great casualties and the fact that HAMAS has fairly provoked the full scale Israeli operation, for the majority of the Palestinians they were still heroes, who are still on the front lines of the struggle. Compared to them Mahmud Abbas sometimes seemed indecisive, incapable to achieve practical results. The Palestinian manifestations in the East Jerusalem and on the West Bank (some observers even started to speak about “the third intifada”), the aggravation of the opposition, which attracted the international attention, were creating a background and additional momentum to activate the political initiatives.

And, finally, no doubt that the Israeli government’s line of policy has provoked deep Palestinian leader’s deep pessimism. It seems that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman who are not interested in the partition of Palestine due to political and ideological motives, were trying to shift the balance of power in the conflict by putting the settlement of relations with the “moderate” states of the Arab world on the first place instead of the settlement of the Palestinian problem. Despite their preoccupation with the ISIS advancement and increase of chaos in the Arab East and even their interest to normalize the relations with Israel, the Arab regimes still are unable to agree to that without creating a Palestinian state or at least without some serious steps in that direction.

Netanyahu’s attempt to pass a law about the Jewish nature of Israel according to which only Jews would have national rights while the other ethnic groups would only have individual rights, has not only lead to the government crisis and snap elections in 2017 but has also made Palestinians very suspicious. The matter is that in 1993 when Y. Arafat agreed to recognize Israel there was no question about any Jewish nature of the state, depriving its other citizens from the national rights. Now Netanyahu demands the Palestinians to accept the Jewish nature of the state as a preliminary condition, and besides in the interpretation included in the new (not adopted yet) law. Lieberman proposed even more severe propositions by connecting the solution of the Palestinian issue with the exchange of territories, what is more, with the Arab citizens of Israel, who, according to him, should be motivated economically to become the citizens of the Palestinian state.

In this situation Mahmud Abbas has decided to bring the issue to the international level. Let alone some positive trends towards the increase of support to the Palestinians in Europe.  In case of success Israel would have been put in front of an accomplished fact of international recognition of the Palestinian state and the occupation of the Palestinian territories would have automatically turned into the occupation of the territory of a sovereign state. In such case Abbas would have achieved a political break through even without starting negotiations with Israel. The rejection of the project of the resolution in the UN Security Council has not closed a possibility to join the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court for Abbas, which will allow him to bring charges against Israel for military crimes by bombarding it by all sorts of lawsuits. On the 2d of January 2015 the Palestinian delegation has submitted the documents to join the Rome Statue and also applications to join 20 international conventions and pacts. Palestine will officially become a member of the International Criminal Court on the 1st of April 2015. This has become possible as in 2012 the UN General Assembly has voted to grant Palestine the status of an observer-state, but not a UN member. Meanwhile, neither Israel, nor the US are members of the Rome Statute and are against Palestinians joining it.

Despite the existing and, probably, coming difficulties, the Palestinian government once again was able to attract attention to the realization of national rights of the Palestinian people. Some observers suppose that some changes on global and regional level may follow the next year. Particularly, the strengthening of the Palestinians on the international arena, the activity of Islamist extremist organizations and the ending presidential term of Obama may motivate the US for more active policy on the Middle Eastern direction. Obama, having become a “lame duck” may especially allow himself exercise more pressure on Israel. All the more so that the US-Israeli pact of strategic partnership signed by him on 19 December 2014 where Israel is called “a major strategic partner” of the US, protects him from the criticism of those who is against the US pressure on Israel (fictional or real). Moreover, this document says that the US will support the Israeli government in its attempts to achieve the political settlement with the Palestinian people that will result in two states living together with peace and security. This is a kind of signal to Netanyahu – the US will improve the Israeli security, but in the meantime the administration will take steps corresponding to the national interests of its own country. However, in order to take such steps Obama’s administration will have to wait till the creation of the new government in Israel after the elections in March 2015, and it may become more right-wing and less flexible that the previous one.

In the rapidly changing situation an attempt of the new monopolization of the settlement process by the US seems unlikely as  it will merely bring any results.  It seems, that both the US and Russia could activate the peace process together despite the existing frictions.  The threat of radicalism and terrorism easily overcoming the borders is one more factor demanding more active steps form the Quartet in general and from the particular EU members, the UN, League of Arab States, the political powers  in Israel striving for peace, from all those who are ready to bring a contribution to the settlement of long and so hopeless Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

Published in Russian on MGIMO-University web-site.

Воскресенье, 11 Январь 2015 03:24

Listening to the Music of the Revolution?

Initially published on eng.globalaffairs.ru. Republished following authors' permission. (Authors are IMESClub's members).

Resume: If the international community fails to establish acceptable and understandable rules of international behavior in the context of “revolutionary challenges,” the world may slip into a new round of global confrontation, which will be caused not by systemic contradictions but by vain disregard for real common threats. 

The late 1990s and the early 2000s were marked by profound changes in geopolitics, world economy and finance. The Cold War paradigm of international relations seemed to have gone for good. At the same time no new rules of states’ behavior have emerged that would consort with the new world order.

The Cold War years showed that, for all the ideological, military and political costs, the bipolar system was relatively stable. It helped to maintain the balance as it imposed quite rigid restrictions on weaker countries in regions (allies or partners of great powers). There was a red line, recognized by all, which could not be crossed, that is, provoking of a global clash. Regional forces sought to gain the support of their patron, sometimes not paying due attention to its own concerns, but ultimately the fear of unacceptable risks caused great powers to act together, putting pressure on regional allies and enforcing restraint in international relations.

The collapse of the bipolar system and the impossibility to comply with the prior rules of the game in a polycentric world made international relations more chaotic. Regional state and non-state actors began to behave more actively, often guided by the behavior of the United States which was no longer restrained by the other center of power. Washington often demonstrated irresponsible policies, not even trying to assess possible consequences of its actions. It seemed there had come a period of international autism when global players, lost in their own worlds and ignoring the interests of others, started reshaping the Yalta system.

Such notions as sovereignty and territorial integrity, on the one hand, and national self-determination, on the other, which have long been conflicting with each other, are being eroded de facto and turning into legal fictions. But these notions should not be viewed as mutually exclusive, either. The right to self-determination can be realized in various forms, for example within a federal state or as autonomy granted to an ethnic group, which does not violate the territorial integrity of a given state. In practice, however, the growth of ethnic nationalism and the activity of new elites seeking access to power and property have equated the concept of self-determination to secession.

Under the new circumstances, powerful states increasingly often resort to the principles of territorial integrity and national self-determination to justify their “sovereign” decisions, proceeding from considerations of political expediency, the way they see it. In other words, they act depending on a specific situation or impulsively react to what they see as unlawful actions of another actor.

The world is witnessing a clash of two different tendencies: the chaotization of world politics, with selective use of military force, and the objective need for humankind to preserve the hard-built integration ties which suggest a certain degree of financial, economic and, in some matters, political interdependence.

 

WHY IS THE FOURTH ENLARGEMENT WAVE FLOPPING?

The crisis over Ukraine has become the most dangerous episode in a series of conflicts that have taken place in the world over the last quarter century, although the Arab Spring has already sent enough signals to major actors to shun ideology in reevaluating objective trends and analyze their miscalculations and mistakes. Whereas no one took local conflicts of the recent decades in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and even Syria as serious threats to international security (the United States’ bellicose rhetoric in the UN Security Council in response to Russian vetoes was aimed at enhancing Washington’s image at home and abroad), the confrontation on Ukrainian soil has prompted the question of whether the world is sliding into the abyss of a Cold War again. This time it is a worst-case-scenario Cold War when the conflicting parties are losing the degree of mutual trust and ability to heed each other, which in the years of systemic confrontation allowed U.S. and Soviet leaders to undo the most intricate knots of tension.

Why have tensions in Russia-West relations come to a head? The sliding from “strategic partnership” to a new round of confrontation led to the accumulation of the explosive mass of irritating factors as well as mutual misunderstanding and misinterpretation of each other’s motives. The events that led to the conflict over Ukraine had been developing slowly but consistently and spilling over more and more eastward towards Russia’s border and its centuries-old cultural and national habitat.

Whereas tensions over NATO’s enlargement into Eastern Europe in the late 1990s, which caused a strong reaction from Russia, subsided over time, the situation began to change rapidly as Western ambitions went as far as the borders of the former Soviet Union. While Russia’s ties with Central and Eastern European countries in the last decade were marked by positive dynamics, the European Union tried hard to draw former Soviet republics into its orbit under the political cover of the so-called Eastern Partnership. Considering the experience of the three previous waves of enlargement, Russia could not consider these developments other than preparations for a subsequent admission of these countries to the Euro-Atlantic alliance (there is an unwritten rule that NATO membership cannot be given to a country that has not gone through the difficult procedure of entry into the European Union).

Ukraine was placed on this waiting list, just like Georgia and Moldova before. The West resumed its policy of containing Russia long before the current Ukrainian crisis, disguising it with talk of partnership and inadmissibility of returning to the struggle for spheres of influence. Among its instruments, it used the strategy of regime change, earlier tested in the Balkans, Georgia and some other transition countries. In Ukraine, however, the West failed to observe democratic decencies. When the regime in Ukraine was replaced by force, with blatant interference of the West, Russia, which until then had held defensive positions, decided it could no longer leave this challenge unanswered. In Russia’s public opinion and official strategy, Ukraine means not only national security and cooperative ties, vital to the economies of both countries, but also centuries of spiritual kinship, and cultural and language commonality.

Considerations of defense played an important role in the Russian reaction. Recent years were marked by a large-scale anti-Russian campaign in the West under various pretenses. The West toughened its criticism of the social and political systems in Russia, which in turn increased conservative sentiment in Russia as a reaction to abortive rapprochement with the West.

There must be some key link in the entire causal chain of actions and counter-actions between Russia and the West. One of these links is the fundamental differences in their perception of modern revolutions and new local or regional threats caused by them.

After the end of the era of bipolar confrontation, Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East were swept over by three waves of revolutions, with different balances of pros and cons, and gains and losses. At the turn of the 1980s-1990s, Russia was also involved in the renewal process, full of internal contradictions, achievements and setbacks. The new challenges, such as international terrorism, upsurges of ethnic nationalism, drug trafficking, cross-border crime and immigration activity, coupled with the global financial crisis, revealed vulnerabilities in the functioning of political systems and market economy mechanisms even in developed countries.

While the communist ideology has failed around the world and the evolutionary model of post-Soviet Russia has not yet produced an attractive alternative, serious defects and dysfunctions have been revealed in liberal democracies, as well. Many Western experts point to a decline in the quality of democracy in the United States and Great Britain, to increasing institutional failures, and the growing number of “defective democracies.” The institution of elections, the main element of democratic government, is losing its former value in the eyes of voters, especially young people (only two out of five Britons aged under 30 voted in the 2010 parliamentary elections in the UK).

It took a quarter of a century to see that “the end of history” predicted by Francis Fukuyama was not going to happen. Later, analyzing “dramatic changes” in the post-industrial era in his book The Great Disruption, he showed convincingly that “history,” meaning the victory of liberalism as a perfect model of state system, is far from over. The period since the end of the 20th century has been marked by a craving for freedom of choice in everything and decreasing trust in social/political institutions. The democracy established in the West has revealed its internal contradictions, making the messianic ambitions of the larger part of the American establishment a naive exaggeration, to say the least.

The United States, whose foreign policy is constrained by ideological clichés, has more than once had to pay for its “interventionism” or idealization of revolutionary change of political regimes with chaotic moves in the Middle East. Washington made obvious blunders in assessing such a social/political phenomenon as the Arab Spring. The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia were automatically taken as a universal phenomenon in the victorious march of democracy. They were even compared to the “velvet revolutions” in Eastern and Central European countries. However, soon it became clear to everyone that Arab revolutions cannot be “velvet.”

Whereas European countries had the experience of bourgeois/democratic development and built their identities on the rejection of communism and viewing the European Union as the center of attraction, there were no such reference points in the Middle East – or for that matter, in the majority of post-Soviet states, and Ukraine is no exception.

The national development of the territories where the present Ukrainian state was established by a historical confluence of circumstances has always been influenced by two tendencies – search for independence and desire for political and cultural community with Russia, with the latter trend obviously prevailing. Ukraine, which was artificially cobbled together from two different parts after the Soviet Union’s military advance in the West in the late 1930s, has remained culturally and politically fragmented to this day. Different historical narratives and national heroes, different mentality, different patterns of employment, and alienation from Russia characteristic of people in Western Ukraine – all these factors surfaced after Ukraine became independent. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian political elite has proven unable to achieve national unity: it has exploited the Ukrainian division and traded service to the nation for money and self-interest. The European Union’s self-confident policy of pressure had forced Ukraine into a dilemma, which it was unable to resolve by definition.

 

POINTLESS INTERFERENCE

Speaking of nation-building, which has much in common in all countries regardless of regional specificities, one should mention the disastrous experience of the first attempts of bourgeois reforms in the Middle East in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The political systems of Egypt, Syria and Iraq, patterned after the Western model, failed to take root on Arab-Muslim soil and were swept away in the military coups of the 1950s-60s. The dramatic changes of the 21st century have also destroyed the myth that the world is developing along the main track from “authoritarianism” to “democracy,” which the majority of the U.S. political elite views as a purely American product, a kind of “Protestant fundamentalism.”

Young people in Arab countries, like the Ukrainian youth, shocked the world with mass calls for a renovation of social foundations, for respect for human dignity and civil liberties, and for social justice. Soon, however, the revolutionary transformation of the Middle East ceased to fit into the democratic context. As the developments went more and more out of control, the Middle East policies of the United States and the European Union were increasingly often faced with serious difficulties, in many cases becoming hostage to traditional thinking.

The powerful popular unrest in Arab countries was caused by a mix of social and economic reasons. External factors did play a role, but initially an indirect one. At the same time, as the domino effect spread, the West a priori supported opposition forces, the way it used to do in other regional conflicts, ignoring their diversity and contradictions in their political attitudes. Since then, external interference in favor of one of the conflicting parties only increased, while the hope to gain political capital by showing solidarity with the Arab “democratic revolutions” was more and more at odds with the real transformation processes in the region.

The fate of Iraq, which has found itself on the verge of losing its statehood and involved in a religious war, has now caused the West to rethink the harmful effects of the American invasion in 2003. As Richard Haass, a leading Middle East expert, wrote, the U.S. policy in Iraq “reinforced sectarian rather than national identities.” In the same way as the Suez Crisis of 1956 caused a surge of pan-Arab nationalism, the Western coalition’s war against a Muslim country triggered an unprecedented escalation of violence by radical Islamists and created fertile ground for the rise of al-Qaeda. The delicate balance between the ruling Sunni minority and the Shiite majority, maintained by Saddam Hussein’s iron hand, was upset in no time in favor of the Shiites. The attempt to impose Western-style parliamentarianism on Iraq resulted in the emergence of a Shiite regime. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki conducted a narrow confessional policy which prevented inclusive participation of other religious and ethnic groups in the government. Kurds began to actively build their own autonomy, while Sunnis and Christians found themselves left without any political representation. The dissolution of the army and the Ba’ath Party, which had been the core of Iraq’s political system, gave rise to a powerful internal protest.

Just as much harm was done by the United States’ active but erratic participation in the complicated transitional processes in Egypt. After a momentary hesitation Washington used all its political and information resources to support the Egyptian revolution, forcing Hosni Mubarak to resign. Later, when Islamists had succeeded in riding on the revolutionary wave, the U.S. assigned the key role to the moderate wing of the Muslim Brotherhood which used the new situation to quickly become an influential political party and win parliamentary and presidential elections. Just like during the rise of Islamism in Algeria in the 1990s that evolved into a decade-long civil war, the Americans exerted constant pressure on the Egyptian army, which led the transition process, forcing it to hand over power to a civilian government, essentially to Islamists. Therefore, the “second coming” of the army to power in July 2013 and the removal of democratically elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in what cannot be described other than a military coup put the White House in a difficult situation again.

The army’s actions, even if they were a response to the demands of millions of people who took to the streets again, did not fit into the antithesis of coup vs democracy; nor did they look like a movement to defend democracy against “Islamic dictatorship” simply because democracy had never existed in Egypt.

In the Muslim world, which had divided over the attitude towards political Islam, the changes in the U.S. policy alienated both adherents of the new military regime and its opponents who supported the Muslim Brotherhood.

Washington also made mistakes in handling the Syrian conflict. Its unconditional support for the motley opposition movement in Syria, in which jihadi organizations linked to al-Qaeda were gaining strength, and the declaration of the Assad regime as a priori illegitimate made American diplomacy weaker rather than stronger and deprived it of the freedom of maneuver. This made Washington hostage to exorbitantly ambitious demands of Syrian émigré politicians and their regional sponsors, and complicated preparations for the Geneva Conference. Ultimately, the U.S. policy obviously began to play into the hands of terrorism, on which the United States had declared war. This became particularly manifest in the summer of 2014, when military successes achieved in Iraq by the terrorist organization Islamic State of Syria and the Levant put the Obama administration in a still more delicate situation.

In the short-term historical perspective, the balance of pros and cons in the regime change in the Middle East has not been in favor of revolutions. The main reason for the overthrow of governments was their inability to meet the basic social, economic and political needs of society and fulfill their promises, although the Arab region in the past decade was developing along the path of modernization and integration into the world economic system. Yet this evolution was much slower than the development of other regions, such as Southeast Asia and Latin America. Secondly, it failed to solve key growth problems. Economic reforms in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria created a middle class but did not narrow the chasm of wealth inequality. Only a small group of people close to power benefited from the results of the reforms. Representative political institutions underwent only token changes. The democratic facade hid authoritarian rule which grew increasingly nepotic. The laws of revolutionary chaos came into play when the authorities proved to be totally unable to regenerate the political system to broaden citizens’ participation in decision-making that affects their vital interests.

 

REVOLUTIONARY CHALLENGES FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD

The transformation of the Arab Orient is proceeding unevenly, with ups and downs, and with progress and regression. Nevertheless, we can try to summarize some of the lessons learned from these developments, and draw some parallels with crises in other regions.

Revolutions come not only when outdated forms of state and political system have to be removed. Whereas in Syria, for example, the Ba’ath party’s monopoly on power has long become an anachronism and its slogan “Unity, Freedom, Socialism” has lost its former appeal, the ten-year civil war in Algeria was largely the result of ill-prepared reforms and hasty democratization launched in the late 1980s through the early 1990s under the influence of changes in Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.

The crisis of the unitary state model in Ukraine, coupled with corruption and moral decay among the elites, is another evidence of the need for timely reform. Instead of reform there followed the revolutionary chaos, the armed conflict in southeast Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis.

What the West took for democracy in the Arab-Muslim countries was purely formal features, such as the electoral process. At the same time, equally or even more important issues were not given due consideration: Can the political force that has won national elections build a society that will meet the hopes of the revolutionary masses? And can democracy be promoted using non-democratic means? Of course, elections are an important tool of democracy, but in the absence of developed institutions they cannot guarantee a transition to democratic rule. In societies that do not share common democratic values, those forces win which can offer the simplest recipes for the nation’s transformation that would be understandable and acceptable to the most conservative and larger part of the electorate. In Palestine, believed to be the most secular Arab society, the 2005 elections were won by the Islamic Hamas movement; and in Egypt, a leading Arab country with a “hybrid regime,” power went to the Muslim Brotherhood. The first thing they did was to amend the Constitution in order to stay in power indefinitely.

Does this experience mean that elections are useless in politically immature societies where the majority of people do not realize their own social interest? Obviously, the question should be put differently. Not just elections but a guaranteed handover of power (as a result of elections) can gradually make the authorities more responsible and nationally oriented.

The developments in Egypt, where two “revolutions” took place over three years, make one think of whether a military coup can be a catalyst for a return to stable evolutionary development. Both Islamists who resort to terror to restore “constitutional law” and secularists who invited the military to power are grossly mistaken in hoping to build a new Egypt without achieving a national consensus.

Not all winds of change can be explained by foreign interference, yet the way internal conflicts are settled – by force or through a peaceful division of power – plays an important role as it predetermines whether the transitional post-revolutionary period is smooth or not. The conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Libya have shown that violence and civil wars, especially if they are supported from abroad or if there is foreign intervention, cause enormous damage to creative efforts.

The experience of the majority of revolutions in the world shows that power is taken not by the forces that stage them but by those who “have caught the wave” with foreign support or by chance. The regime change in the Arab World, which took place under democratic slogans, once again confirmed the relevance of this historical trend. When mass protests began in Arab countries, there were no Islamic slogans in the streets, but eventually Tunisian and Egyptian Islamists came to lead these revolutionary-democratic protests, using their experience of organizational work among the masses, sermons in mosques, and disunity in the secular opposition. In fact, the Egyptian revolution went through two “Tahrirs,” just as the revolution in Ukraine did with two “Maidans.” One Maidan was moderate, pro-European and directed against the corrupt regime; the other one, radical and nationalistic, transformed the change of power into an armed mutiny, with a hostile attitude to Russia and the Russian-speaking population of eastern Ukraine.

As the transition period has slowed down in Arab countries shaken by revolutions, actually in all of them democratic illusions are giving way to the local, including Islamic, reality. Many Arab political analysts wonder whether their countries are ready for democracy and what development model will take root in the Middle East where the foundations of the social contract between the state and society have been undermined. All known variants – Egyptian, Turkish, Saudi and Iranian – have been discredited or are losing their attractiveness. “Political Islam” at the present stage has failed. Further progress towards a Western-type parliamentary system is unlikely.

In contrast to the Western political process which developed in societies with a structuring nature of private ownership relations, the domination of commodity production, and the absence of a centralized government, in Eastern societies the political process always was the result of domination of state and communal ownership. In these countries power was the equivalent of ownership, and society occupied a subordinate position towards the state. Absolutization of the state meant, in particular, that its power did not transform into the welfare of citizens, who remained subjects subordinate to the communal interest merged with the state interest.

Disappointed hopes for a fast improvement of life after the overthrow of old regimes transform into a desire for a strong hand and order. This phenomenon can be seen in Egypt where Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who won the latest presidential election, is viewed by most Egyptians as “the savior of the nation.” A strong personality has emerged also in Libya. General Khalifa Haftar, who returned to his country from exile after the revolution began, united part of the army, tribes and local militias to challenge the transitional government under the banner of fighting Islamists.

The formation of new governments may take long efforts to achieve national consensus under the aegis of a personified political force that has taken the upper hand in political in-fighting, which means preservation of authoritarianism, and not necessarily in an enlightened form.

 

*  *  *

Today revolutions have become major factors influencing the system of international relations. Obviously, leading world powers may have different attitudes to them, yet they should be balanced and responsible. Russia and the West can and should avoid a recurrence of crisis situations in their mutual relations. This, in fact, is their historical responsibility. If they agree on common principles to settle intrastate conflicts that give rise to ethnic, religious or purely political extremism, this would play a positive role.

The nature of modern revolutions has long been a subject of heated discussions. When do internal affairs cease to be internal? Does this happen when there is suppression of civil liberties, a disproportionate use of force against mass opposition protests, acts of violence or other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law? Without questioning the basic principle of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs, one should admit that many of these issues have already acquired global dimension.

If the international community fails to establish acceptable and understandable rules of international behavior in the context of “revolutionary challenges,” the world may slip into a new round of global confrontation, which will be caused not by systemic contradictions of the Cold War times but by vain disregard for real common threats.

M.D.: Israel and Palestine are being tossed around: from escalations to more or less successful negotiations. What do you think will be the result of the latest negotiations breakdown and aggravation of situation between Israel and Palestine? 

Irina Zviagelskaya: You know, that the kidnapping of there Israeli teenagers caused this situation. As the security services failed to locate them, Israel resorted to the military actions and arrested dozens of Palestinians who were already released according to the previous agreements. Now there is an ongoing tightening of Israeli position. Israel has accused Hamas of the abduction. But many experts believe, it was not necessarily Hamas to kidnap them. There are many other organizations that act among Palestinians and practically uncontrolled, so they could do it deliberately in order to turn Israeli’s anger against Hamas. Moreover, many people in Israel are disturbed by the creation of Palestinian government of the national unity, though it is a technical one. There are many reasons that have caused the regular escalation of the situation and they are unlikely to be eliminated. In any case, I am very pessimistic concerning the peace talks. As we know, the promises of State Secretary Kerry that the Americans would swiftly achieve a breakthrough turned out to be unrealistic.  The issues to resolve in order to achieve peace are far too complicated.  Moreover, I believe that violent and bloody processes taking place in the region are completely unlikely to encourage compromise in Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

 

M.D.: How do you think the US overtures with Iran and its potential exit from isolation will influence on the situation in the Middle East and on Arab-Israeli conflict in particular?

I.Z. : As far as the US policy towards Iran is concerned it can hardly be called overtures.  The question is to make Iran renounce its nuclear program. And this corresponds to the interests of everybody; Russia is among the members of the negotiations. Another issue is whether Iran is interested itself to exit the isolation, dispose of all sanctions and reintegrate into the world politics and economy. Not surprisingly, Mr Rouhani, well known for his balanced view, has become President of Iran. Meantime, several experts have voiced their fears that Washington will get the increase of oil production and decrease of oil prices as a result of removal of sanctions and US-Iranian approach. I find this logic doubtful, and taking into consideration the situation in Iraq, oil prices decline is just impossible.

The exit of Iran from isolation can be very positive.  Iran could especially take active part in the settlement in Syria, were it plays a significant role, as we all know. The second moment is of course the situation in Iraq, where Iran has its own interests and where its role is very important.

The current situation in Iraq is very dangerous. There is a crisis of US policy of state transformation by military interventions. As soon as the Americans left in the end of 2011, everything collapsed. It has collapsed because they had created a confessional regime. Relying on Shia majority they have dismissed the army, where the majority was Sunni, they managed to close BAAS party, which was also mainly supported by Sunni. And thus they have not only created a huge resentful mass of Sunni, but also have set a course towards the creation of regime excluding different ethnic and confessional groups.

We now see the results of what has happened. The struggle against extremist Sunni groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Levant is top priority now. If they manage to gain a number of military victories and shift the balance of power to their side, that will mean the most grave crisis in the Middle East.

 

M.D. I just wanted to ask about Iraq in particular. Now Washington officially states that the US has no responsibility of the crisis in Iraq. And actually it implies that it is not going to intervene in the crisis. How much should the situation heat to make the politicians take real actions, as Bagdad demands now?

I.Z. : Well, firstly, besides the official statements there are enough expert estimations that directly show, that the US has invested too much in Iraq in due time. We can say that the current administration is not to blame. Of course, it is not Obama’s administration that launched military actions in 2003. It was Bush’es Jr administration. And for sure it is not the administration to be responsible for the regime building in Iraq and the kind of help that was offered to Iraq. However 4,5 thousand US soldiers have died. The military operation and attempts to reform Iraq have cost great money. And everybody knows about it. What has happened in Iraq just indicates the impossibility to transform a society, which is not ready for it by the means of external intervention. This is a crisis of American strategy in the Middle East as well.

Will the US intervene? I had opportunity to read the declarations of the American President who said, “I do not exclude anything”. In general, everything depends on the future course of actions. If the extremists are allowed to win, it will create a great danger not only for Iraq, but for the whole Middle East. Violence and extremist ideas easily overcome the borders. I believe it is very dangerous for Russia, which has its own Islamic extremists, where we face terrorist, where there are examples of Russian soldiers of fortune who fight for the opposition Syria, quite possibly among the insurgents twisted in the same way. Crisis in Iraq should be taken with all the seriousness.

 

M.D.:  Is it possible that the US are just interested in strengthening of ISIS, as once powerful, it could give a final blow to Bashar Assad’s forces, after which the US can strike the Islamists?

I.Z. : It is impossible to predict who will these people strike. The paradox is that Bashar Assad, unacceptable for the US, is currently carrying tasks, which correspond to their interests. He fights the ISIS and other extremists.

Russia is actively returning to the Middle East now. A new, particular era of relations with Saudi Arabia has begun; we are developing the relations with the UAE. The relations with Egypt, with president Al Sisi, are promising. But I would not agree that Russia expels the US from there. Somewhere Russia and the USA keep competing. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian crisis has increased our rivalry including in the Middle East. But in the meantime we have very important field for cooperation there. It is the Syrian crisis settlement, struggle against terrorism and extremism; it is the desire not to let Iran possess nuclear weapons.

 

M.D.: Maybe my question was not completely correct. Is it possible to say, that the Middle East countries have a growing interest to the relations with Russia themselves?

I.Z.: Yes, it is true. Speaking about the social level, the Arabs are generally tired of the Americans. They were enthusiastic about the inclusion of Crimea and Sevastopol into Russia. Because, from their point of view, it has shown the US that not everybody is ready to play by its rules. Furthermore,  many countries in the region always wished to have Russia as a counterbalance in the Middle East.

 

Interviewed by Maria Dubovikova

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