Crossfire War – MOSCOW WATCH – West Asia Theatre: Moscow – Washington – Rome/Damascus – Beirut – Tehran; Russia Increases Role in West Asia (Middle East) – Syria Pres. Bashar al-Assad Summoned to Moscow – Due to Arrive Dec. 19 – Negotiations on Latest News
Night Watch: MOSCOW – Syria President Bashar al-Assad has been summoned by Moscow to meet Russia President Vladmir Putin on December 19. RIA reports the two are to discuss regional developments and bilateral issues, but for obvious reasons gives no details. So much can happen between now and then. The details revolve around Moscow’s concern over the Damascus-Tehran security axis as they prepare for next wave of fighting against Israel while at the same time Syria-Iran are increasing their control over Lebanon through the expanded coalition parties demonstrating in Beirut. Moscow knows the next wave of war will engulf the European forces in UNIFIL since Tehran had al-Qaeda designate them to be an enemy of Islam (Iran). [RIA]
President al-Assad has to respond to the summons since Moscow has long been one of Syria’s main weapon suppliers and if his responses are not satisfactory then Russia will distance itself from him. Putin may also make inquiries concerning Tehran and its state of readiness, and then ask how soon Iran-Syria could order Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah into action against Israel. Putin probably noticed the recent regional tour made by the Palestinian Prime Minister who spent nearly a week in both Syria and Iran. The question is to what extent will Damascus make in its attempt to retake the Golan Heights lost to Israel in 1967 and the answer is a substantial effort, firing whatever Scud ballistic missiles they have, but I don’t think Syria will commit all of its armed forces since that will leave them in such a weakened state after the war.
Putin must have noticed al-Assad’s bombastic speech right after the August ceasefire in which he stated it will be easy for Syria to retake the Golan since he had convinced himself Hezbollah had just won a great victory. Moscow may use the meeting next week to see if al-Assad is at all lucid and can still see reason, and gauge what is the extent of his delusion. I suspect Putin may decide Russia should plan on a Syria without al-Assad as President though his political structure may survive.
It is quite possible that Putin might suggest to his government that in order to distract Iran’s attention away from sending more units to help Syria, Russia could launch air strikes against Georgian positions in the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia as a way of attracting Tehran’s attention to its north and putting Iran on the defensive. Tehran will still commit some units against Jerusalem but with a serious military threat to Iran’s north moving south Tehran may reduce its commitment. Moscow is aware that if Tehran continues to extend its influence in West Asia it will increase Tehran’s ability to strengthen its hold on other areas like the Caucasus – Caspian region, the world’s most important crossroads of energy pipelines.
Moscow, and the industrialized world that supplies Russia with its hard currency, cannot afford to let that happen. With the Russian economy reliable and growing under President Putin and with the reforms in the armed services creating a more professional military, Moscow is now ready to fill the regional vacuum London-Washington are leaving behind in the wake of their burning bridges foreign policy.