“Putin Is The New Master Of The Middle East”

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Originally appeared at ZeroHedge

With the Trump administration lately focused mostly on domestic policy – even as Mueller’s ongoing Russian probe continues to hang over Trump’s head – US power and influence in the Middle East has found itself in retreat, a continuation of unsuccessful and/or failed policies implemented by the Obama administration, resulting in a power vacuum that has to be filled, and one country has emerged willing to take America’s spot.

As Bloomberg writes today, “the Israelis and Turks, the Egyptians and Jordanians – they’re all beating a path to the Kremlin in the hope that Vladimir Putin, the new master of the Middle Eastcan secure their interests and fix their problems.”

And now, none other than Saudi Arabia is the latest to make friendly overtures toward the Kremlin, when Saudi King Salman visits Moscow on Wednesday, the first monarch of the oil-rich kingdom to do so. At the top of his agenda will be reining in Iran, a close Russian ally seen as a deadly foe by most Gulf Arab states.

As Bloomberg concedes, until very recently, Washington stood alone as the go-to destination for such leaders. Now, however, “American power in the region is perceptibly in retreat” a testament to the success of Russia’s military intervention in Syria, which has not only succeeded in squashing the local Islamic State threat, but kept President Bashar al-Assad in power after years of U.S. insistence that he must go.

“It changed the reality, the balance of power on the ground,” said Dennis Ross, America’s former chief Mideast peace negotiator who advised several presidents from George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama. “Putin has succeeded in making Russia a factor in the Middle East. That’s why you see a constant stream of Middle Eastern visitors going to Moscow.”

"Putin Is The New Master Of The Middle East"

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Pavel Golovkin

There’s also money: as RT writes, a joint Russian-Saudi fund to invest in the energy sector will be announced during the forthcoming visit of the Saudi King to Moscow, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told the Al Arabiya TV Channel. According to Novak, the basic agreement to establish the $1 billion fund has already been reached.

Novak said Russia is “focused on developing cooperation with Saudi Arabia not only within the OPEC framework but also outside the cartel,” including the energy sector, the electric power sector, and renewable energy resources. Additionally, Moscow and Riyadh are expected to announce a new investment platform and manufacturing projects. Last week, the Director-General of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev praised significant results in investment cooperation between the RDIF and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

In 2015 the two sovereign funds agreed to a partnership, establishing a joint $10 billion platform and inking several investment deals. RDIF has also signed a cooperation agreement with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), to jointly search for investment projects in Russia. SAGIA is supposed to bring Russian companies to the Arabian market.

Still, Putin’s success will bring problems, because as conflicting demands pile up, it won’t be easy to send all the visitors home satisfied. “The more you try to adopt a position of dealing with all sides, the more you find that it’s hard to play that game,’’ Ross said.

To be sure, Moscow was a major power in the Middle East during the Cold War, arming Arab states against Israel, however as communism collapsed in the late 1980s, so did Russia’s influence. When the US invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, Russia was a bystander, unable to do more than protest. However, the tables began to turn in 2013, when the U.S. under Obama decided not to attack Assad. Two years later, Putin sent troops and planes to defend him.

For the most part, America’s local allies were firmly in the Assad-must-go camp. They were disillusioned when U.S. military might wasn’t deployed to force him out.

Russia’s clout in the region has grown “because Obama allowed it to,’’ said Khaled Batarfi, a professor at Alfaisal University’s branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “Unfortunately he withdrew to a great extent from the Middle East.’’

That view is widespread. It was bluntly expressed last month by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spent years urging American action against Assad. Talks with the U.S. “couldn’t get any results,’’ he said.

And, as discussed here previously, Turkey has now alligned with Russia and Iran in a plan to de-escalate the conflict. It’s “achieving a result,’’ Erdogan said.

Two years ago, tensions between Putin and Erdogan had threatened to boil over, after the Turkish military shot down a Russian jet on the Syrian border. Last Friday, the Russian president flew to Ankara for dinner with his Turkish counterpart and “friend,’’ who’s agreed to buy Russian S-400 air defense missile systems, riling fellow NATO members.

Meanwhile, in the most bizarre reversal, the Saudis, who had financed rebels fighting against Assad as well as radical, Al Qaeda splinter groups and according to Hillary Clinton, the Islamic State itself, are cooperating with Russia in coaxing the opposition to unite for peace talks – which will likely cement the Syrian leader in power, even as Saudi Arabia has splintered from its long-time ally Qatar.

America’s Middle East allies mostly welcomed the change of U.S. president, and Donald Trump’s tough talk about challenging Iran. So far, though, he’s stuck close to his predecessor’s policy in Syria, concentrating on fighting Islamic State not Assad.

So, as the goal of regime-change in Syria recedes, priorities have shifted. The Saudis and other Arab Gulf powers are urging Russia to reduce Iran’s role in Syria, where Hezbollah and other Shiite militias supported by Tehran have provided shock troops for Assad’s offensive.

“Russia is better off not to be on one side of it. That’s the key message,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a U.A.E.-based political analyst, told Bloomberg. “Here is the king, representing Arab Gulf countries, representing a lot of geopolitical weight, coming to Russia. And Russia has to take that into consideration.’’

However any expectations the Saudi monarch may have of inserting a wedge between Russia and Iran will soon be dashed: Putin won’t shift his stance on Iran to accommodate Saudi wishes, according to a person close to the Kremlin quoted by Bloomberg. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has visited Russia four times in the past 18 months, has also found it hard to sway the Russian leader.

In August, Netanyahu told Putin that Iran’s growing foothold in Syria is “unacceptable.’’ In September he told CNN that the Iranians are trying to “colonize’’ Syria with the aim of “destroying us and conquering the Middle East.”

Russia, though, refused his demand for a buffer zone inside Syria that would keep the forces of Iran and Hezbollah at least 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli border, a person familiar with the matter in Moscow said. Instead, Russia offered a 5-kilometer exclusion zone, the person said.

Relishing its newly-found power broker position, Russia also rejected a U.S. demand to make the Euphrates river a dividing line between Syrian government troops and U.S.-supported forces in eastern Syria. This led to a race to capture territory from retreating Islamic State fighters in a strategic and oil-rich border region, and is currently manifesting itself in the scramble to control Drer Ezzor.

At the same time, Russia has succeeded in keeping open channels of communication to all sides, from Iran to Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian radical Islamist group Hamas to Israel, said Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa director at Eurasia Group.

While Russia didn’t give way on the buffer zone, it has a tacit understanding that permits Israel to carry out airstrikes against Hezbollah in Syria, said Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research group set up by the Kremlin.

It’s been mediating, along with Egypt, to end the decade-old inter-Palestinian rift between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Putin invited rival Libyan factions to Moscow, after a series of peace efforts by other countries came to nothing. Russia has become a leading investor in oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan, and was one of the few world powers to refrain from condemning its recent vote on independence.

What is most surprising, is that in economic terms, the contest for influence looks dramatically one sided: America’s GDP is 13 times Russia’s. However, that’s not always the decisive factor, said Alexander Zotov, Moscow’s ambassador to Syria from 1989 to 1994. “Sometimes you have two boxers coming out to the ring, one is huge with bulging muscles and the other is smaller but nimble, and has a better technique,’’ he said.

Making matters worse, the nimble fox has managed to, supposedly, sway US elections courtesy of $100,000 in Facebook ads, when both the Clinton and Trump campaign spent hundreds of millions.

While economics are a limiting factor for Russia, Putin has another material advantage over American presidents according to Paul Salem, vice president of the Middle East Institute in Washington. He has no Congress to worry about, and no elections that he risks losing. Putin has been around for almost two decades, a long time in geopolitics, with “very consistent leadership, a consistent message,” Salem said.

“He says what he does, he does what he says.”

Russia’s rise came as U.S. policy makers grew preoccupied with Asia, and the American public tired of Middle East wars – something both Obama and Trump acknowledged.

To be sure, “Washington remains the indispensable power in the region,’’ said Eurasia’s Kamel. But its commitment to traditional alliances is weakening, he said, and that’s encouraged regional leaders to hedge their bets.

As Bloomberg concludes, “The Kremlin is on everyone’s mind.”

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  • Zainab Ali

    God bless mr putin and his nation for their invaluable help in the syrian war …. btw guess who has no shame but to see him about the defeat of their funded terrorism? zio satanic wahabbis, the losers

  • IH8Lies

    Hope this continues and nations in the region get a chance to rebuild after they have removed all these sponsored terrorists.
    The US empire is very much coming to an end, but that also makes it very dangerous.

  • jade villaceran

    This is what obama means being isolated lol

    • Daniel Castro

      Remember when he said Russia was no longer a world power?

      • FlorianGeyer

        And when Mad John McMain said that 2 Russia is only a gas station “.

        A Gas Station that still supplies Russian rocket engines to the US Space programme as the US has not been able to produce any viable alternatives that don’t explode :).

  • Tommy Jensen

    US did what they came for, destroying Syria and traumazise its population. The Syrian war will drag on to the extend possible destruction, then US will be heading for the next country to smash in a new endless simultanious war scenes.
    Very dark times ahead folks. Sorry for the bad and chocking message in the link.
    http://www.voltairenet.org/article197541.html

    • Garga

      I think the links aren’t what you intended. Both go to the main page, Would you fix ’em?

      • Ronald

        I believe he was referencing “The American Military Project for the World” , by Thierry Meyssan . This author also has a “must read ” for any one interested in the well being of Iran and Myanmar . called , “Political Islam Against China” .

        Can’t recommend it enough.

        • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

          Thierry Meyssan wrote a good series called “Before our Eyes” very good read can offer good catch up and a refresher of the actions taken in the Middle East regarding Syria.

    • FlorianGeyer

      Voltaires article is indeed most pertinent to the chaos in many parts of the world today.

  • Ебать АМЕРИКА

    These muricunts have only won ONE war since the Red Army defeated the nazis, took Berlin and destroyed over 70% of ALL German forces. Every other illegal invasions have ended in humiliating defeat.

    In 1991, old fart Bush told Sadddam that the us won’t mind if he invaded Kuwait… it was trap so the us could destroy his army before they actually invaded with faked “evidence” in 2003, and these warmongers were so proud to destroy ancient weapon systems with modern munitions… like the bully who takes on a crippled kid and is so proud of himself. Their end is near..

    • EmilyEnso

      These muricunts have only won ONE (Kuwait)

      Not true.
      They won in Panama and in Granada.
      Grenada was a close run thing.
      Rumour hath it they forgot the maps and had to raid a local tourist shop.
      But nothing stood in the way of the brave and fearless US military – they overcame the 500 Granadan resisters in less than a week.

      • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

        The Americans invaded over a bunch of construction workers that were from Cuba building construction projects. Most people were surprised they were even there in the first place as no one was in danger. Cuba refers to all it’s workers as soldiers of the revolution. The biggest thing about it showed how they were almost beaten by a bunch of Grenadan soldiers and per usual they made a movie making the marines the heroes. The Army as usual saved the day when the shit hit the fan and they had no maps and then the marines started shooting everything up.The commanding officers were the biggest bunch of cl*ster f*cks ever sent on any expedition.

  • Loz

    Carefully study this interview with Sergei Lavrov, as reported in TASS. The text says, in effect, when read together, that “the operations of the US-led forces” – and the context is the International Coalition forces, rather than SDF – “stage fatal provocations against our military personnel”. This is a breathtaking assertion.

    The most recently reported ‘actions’ against Russian personnel are the MPs monitoring the Idlib deconfliction area, and the killing of a Russian General and 2 Colonels in Deir Ezzor. Perhaps there are others less reported. Perhaps this refers to incidents in Aleppo. If it refers to the Deir Ezzor incident, then there are many serious implications.

    The most important point is Mr. Lavrov’s last one. Terrorism won’t be defeated by force alone.

    It is impossible that those in power in America are unaware of that. Yet force is effectively all that America applies.

    Therefore, what is USA really doing in the Middle East and Afghanistan?

    http://tass.com/world/968765

    Russia’s policy in Syria devoid of self-serving interests, hidden agenda — Lavrov

    World

    October 04, 1:42 UTC+3

    “We would also welcome everyone who is willing to engage in this joint honest work,” he said

    Share

    92

    © Alexei Nikolsky/Russian president’s press service/TASS

    MOSCOW, October 4. /TASS/. Russia’s policy in Syria and the Middle East
    is devoid of self-serving interests or a hidden agenda, Foreign Minister
    Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq
    Al Awsat on the eve of a visit to Russia by King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

    “Our policy has an advantage, as it is not intended to serve vested
    interests and has no hidden agenda,” he said. “In this context, we will
    further expand our efforts to settle numerous crises and conflicts in
    the region through peaceful political and diplomatic means. We would
    also welcome everyone who is willing to engage in this joint honest
    work.”

    In this context, he recalled that the U.S.-led international coalition
    for struggle with the Islamic State military grouping was a gatecrasher
    in Syria from the standpoint of the Syrians and international law in an
    equal measure.

    “The government of Syria demonstrates tolerance as long as the
    coalition’s activities are aimed at countering terrorists in the
    territory of this country,” Lavrov said. “We are concerned over – and we
    have spoken openly of this concern of ours – the tactic of
    half-measures pursued by the United States and their allies.”

    “When double standards are applied, when terrorists are divided into the
    “bad” and the “not so bad” ones, when the coalition recruits its
    members on political grounds disregarding the need for the UNSC approval
    of its activities, one can hardly expect effective fight against
    terrorism,” he said.

    In this context, Lavrov recalled that the IS ranks had started
    developing cracks under the strikes of the Russian Aerospace Force and
    the Syrian Army.

    He said that, on this background, the operations of the US-led forces in Syria were giving rise to many questions.

    “In some cases these forces mounts allegedly accidental strikes
    against the Syrian Armed Forces, after which the Islamic State
    counterattacks.” Lavrov said. “In other cases they inspire other
    terrorists to attack strategic locations over which official Damascus
    has restored its legitimate authority, or stage fatal provocations against our military personnel.”

    He said that he could also mention numerous “accidental” strikes against
    civilian infrastructure, the civilian death toll from which numbered
    hundreds of lives.

    Lavrov said in this light that Russia’s participation in the fight
    against ISIS aimed both to ensure the national security of Russia and to
    strengthen global and regional security.

    “The use of force alone is not enough to eradicate terrorism in the
    Middle East and North Africa. We are convinced of that,” he indicated.

    • 888mladen .

      “Russia’s policy in Syria devoid of self-serving interests, hidden agenda — Lavrov” Not true.
      “Russia has become a leading investor in oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan, and was one of the few world powers to refrain from condemning its recent vote on independence.” “While Russia didn’t give way on the buffer zone, it has a tacit understanding that permits Israel to carry out air strikes against Hezbollah in Syria, said Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research group set up by the Kremlin.”

  • Barba_Papa

    I don’t think that Putin is the new master of the Middle East. The US is still a military superpower, Russia at best a military great power, with still a lot of reliance on legacy USSR gear. Nowhere near the power it had in the days of the USSR. But what power he has Putin seems to use more wisely and strategically then the Americans. Who have become so used to being the only unopposed super power they’ve forgotten how to use that power subtly, wisely and above all strategically. Not that they were that much wiser when the USSR was still around, but at least they were faced by certain constraints that forced them to think before they acted. They’re like a slow heavy weight boxer that just can’t seem to hit that nimble featherweight darting around him.

    Through clever use of what little force Russia has Putin has managed to outsmart the Americans and make Russia a major player in the Middle East again. And make the various regimes there notice. Some of whom were probably eager for a counterbalance for unbridled and uncontrolled US adventurism. It shows the difference between short term emotional knee jerk driven Western politics vs. long term chess playing, eschewing the outrage of the day (even from many of the commenters here) in favor of keeping one’s eye on the big prize at the end. There have been setbacks, there will be further setbacks, but there is no denying that since the Russian intervention happened overall the situation for the Assad regime has gone uphill in every area. And as long as the Americans do not learn from their mistakes and pick up their game, which seems highly unlikely considering the political climate in Washington, and as long as Putin manages to stay on his game and keeps the Russian economy going, things will continue to go uphill in Syria and in the Middle East in general for Russia.

    And Putin has to stay on top of his game, because while the slow heavy weight can’t get a good hit on the light featherweight, one good lucky hit is all that the heavy weight needs to win though.

    • Tudor Miron

      Some may find your analyses a bit flawed :) What will be that lucky shot of faded heavyweight? You’re write that Russia in not a superpower in regards of enslaving the world as US trying to do. Russia’s army is build around defending the country and US knows very well that Russia has enough force to defend itself.

      • Barba_Papa

        The USSR used to be a superpower, Russia is just not at that same level anymore. Although thankfully they have come a long way to restore some of that power in defense of their own country, they still lack the power projection capabilities the USSR had.

        As for what could be that lucky shot, who knows? Maybe if enough Russians get killed in Syria the Russian public might turn against it and force Putin to withdraw? Something out of the blue is always possible as well.

        • Rodger

          Can they destroy the US? Yup. So they are at the same level.

          • Barba_Papa

            Well, North Korea has almost has the means to destroy the US. Maybe not fully, but hit the major cities on the West Coast, especially California, which by itself is one of the biggest economies in the world, do that and the US is a super power no more. Millions dead, economy in tatters, that alone is a disaster akin to the breakup of the USSR.

            Does that however mean that NK is on the same level as the US? Not in a million years. Same for Russia. The US can deploy to the other side of the world half a million of troops, hundreds of aircraft and 10 carrier battle groups. Russia is hard pressed to maintain a few dozen aircraft and some special forces in a country relatively nearby, and its single aircraft carrier loses 10% of its airwing due to accidents on its first real deployment. Granted, Russia does magnificently well wit what it has, but lets keep a realistic mind. I’m sure that’s what Putin does, and that’s what enables him to do so well.

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            What all that does is make the US the biggest floating target in the Ocean. The days are gone when having aircraft carrier groups are a necessity in projecting power. Today’s war is about how fast you can strike and EW plays a major role in this , as these floating convoys take a massive amount of time to gather, those are no longer pluses but negatives to actual deployment and force projection.

            When you start talking about losses in air power the US is a spiked increase in crashes 60% increase, they had to ground a squadron of F/18s 2 pilots came back in the older F-18C with cabin pressure sickness , another pilot crashed in Bahrain from the Nimitz recently. You seem to overlook the fact most of the US planes are in an aging fleet and crashing because they are beyond the limits of these aircraft and why more are being grounded regularly.

            There is no lack of bombs just lack of safety for the pilots in question. How is the US going to keep up putting out aged planes and continue to further limit these aircraft’s abilities by repeated use and longer maintenance times. Wonder if you can explain that one this is no video game in the military your playing, but real life with real life consequences.

          • Rodger

            No, it hasn’t. Taking out a few cities is what any group with a billion dollars can do.

        • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

          The US used to be a superpower but they have dwindled their ability at being effective anymore constant war has put a strain on those abilities. One cannot remain at the top of their form if one continues push the limits , when the limit is reached then the game continues to drop. When the game grows harder to compete the US will falter and will require decades to try and catch up to the rest.

          The Russian People have already given their full support , the longer this drags on the more resolved they will become. This is not what the chowder heads at NATO were told by out of touch strategy and policy makers have told them would happen. They were all but wrong on who would no longer have a stomach for it and that are citizens of NATO countries, when that happens it will be a sudden shift.

    • chris chuba

      The funny thing is that it is the U.S. that is obsessed with ‘winning’. When the Turks shot down a Russian Jet Putin reacted calmly and with restraint, he always acts with restraint and kept his focus on his long term goals. We in the U.S. would be in a panic on how not to look weak or we would lose our credibility.

      The funny thing is that we pay a lot of guys in our Intelligence agencies to figure out what the Russians are up to but they tell us up front but we just don’t listen to them.

      On ’60 Minutes’ Putin said, ‘we are in Syria to support the legitimate govt of Syria, to help them fight all terrorists including Al Nusra and ISIS and to encourage them to reach out to the healthy portions of the opposition’. So why should we be surprised that Putin is now working with Turkey and Iran on the Astana peace process and de-escalation zones. But we have people in the U.S. that are surprised and wondering what he is up to. Hey, stop believing your own B.S. and listen to the guy.

    • Ronald

      “Very consistent leadership , a consistent message ”
      “He says what he does , and he does what he says ” . V. Putin .
      This is the key item missing in the American game , completely lacking in direction , or integrity ,
      with this Russia has the distinct advantage .

  • 888mladen .

    Has anybody noticed this: “Russia has become a leading investor in oil-rich Iraqi Kurdistan, and
    was one of the few world powers to refrain from condemning its recent
    vote on independence.”. Is RU working in partnership with US on Kurdistan project?

    • George King

      RU is NOT developing Barzani’s oil industry, but it is developing Iraqi and Turkey’s. Despite who says other wise Iraq has taken over all oil transfers and payments from Barzani and Iraq will pay KRG salaries which Barzani clan has not and he will be held accountable for billions unaccounted for plus the transport and sale of ISIS stolen Iraqi oil. Remember Barzani was not re-elected president for a reason and his clan holds a de facto coup operation.

  • “PUTIN AND ASSAD ARE THE NEW MASTERS OF THE MIDDLE EAST”

    stanfordflipside.com/images/164alassad.jpg
    https://i.imgur.com/BxBIX_d.jpg?maxwidth=640&shape=thumb&fidelity=medium

    I fixed your post for you SF :)

  • EmilyEnso

    Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has visited Russia four
    times in the past 18 months, has also found it hard to sway the Russian
    leader.

    I hope and believe that Netanyahu will get nowhere with Russia until it surrenders the oil rich Golan back where it belongs – to Syria.
    It s part of Syria and recognised as such by virtually every nation.
    It is Syrian under international law.
    It is Syrian under the direction of the UN and UN resolutions call on Israel to quit.
    I suggest Israel may wake up to the fact that returning Golan to its rightful home as a province of Syria may pay bigger dividends in general – no matter how many dirty US and Israel politicians hold zillions of personal shares in the oil company illegally drilling in the area.

    • George Evans

      don,t hold your breath, mate…

      • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

        That will happen as Israel did sign an treaty of unconditional return and withdrawal of the Jaawlan Heights in 2010 signed by Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, hate to destroy your image of the situation. Why do you think there is desperation in Israel over the winning , they never expected this to happen , the shoe is going to drop and they are going to be flying.

        • George Evans

          so why has nothing happened then ??? you must judge by what people DO..not waht they SAY….

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            They are securing their borders and will have the US expelled by the end of the year and then it’s a new ball game as they will have to take their toys with them. Syria picks its battles to deal with as they already have set up a court for trying terrorists in Syria. The continue to rebuild their country and will probably see Trump and the US taxpayer ponying up money in that regard. Then They will force Israel at the UN to make a full and unconditional withdrawal from the Jaawlan Heights , besides the Israelis are terrified Nasrallah may have declared war against Israel or close to it.

          • George Evans

            but still nothing has been DONE…

  • chris chuba

    I’m not commenting on Zero Hedge so much as the U.S. attitude towards Russia’s role in the M.E. Why should we seek to ‘keep the Russians out’ of the M.E.?
    1. Russia is a major energy exporter (like the M.E.)
    2. Russia is much closer to the M.E.
    3. Russia has a large Muslim population even if you don’t count the bordering republics that were once part of the Soviet Union.

    The knuckleheads in the U.S. reduce it to banal things like ‘Russia wants warm water ports’ as if this is the 1800’s. Why shouldn’t they be engaged in common security issues and energy projects. Their alliance with Iran is because they evaluated the situation and concluded that Iran wants stability, they didn’t make a blood oath under a full moon swearing to destroy the U.S. and Israel to the last child. We are such infants, it’s scary how we in the U.S. look at these things.

    • Rodger

      Yeah, that one also always cracks me up. All they need to do for that is build one the non-Crimea Black Sea shore.

    • Kira Binkley

      You sure don’t sound like an American. You seem unbiased.

  • Kira Binkley

    Maybe things aren’t so bad after all. Apparently even Bloomberg realizes the decline of American influence around the world, but especially in the Middle East.
    And it’s only been two years!!