New Russian drive for Mid-East peace

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

RUSSIAN diplomacy has gone into top gear in renewed efforts to build a common front against the reactionary Islamic State (ISIS) militia and end the fighting in Syria. President Putin’s Special Envoy Mikhail Bogdanov has held top-level talks in Damascus while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei

Lavrov outlined the Kremlin’s position in discussions with the Saudis and the Syrian opposition in Moscow last week. Lavrov urged Syrian “National Coalition” leader Khaled Khoja to look for consensus on a political settlement in Syria. But his call to tackle Islamic State terror fell on deaf ears. Khoja, who leads a pro-Nato front based in Turkey that includes the “Free Syrian Army” continued to insist that President Assad must first step down before there can be any talk about national reconciliation.

The Russians also drew a blank with the Saudis — at least as far as Syria goes. But both sides will doubtless have discussed the oil industry in which Russia and Saudi Arabia are major players and both sides are equally concerned at the American fracking boom that could significantly reduce Russia and Saudi Arabia’s share of the global oil market.

Russia is clearly not going to dump Assad and as if to stress the point the Moscow media reported that the Kremlin has supplied Syria with MiG- 31 war-planes to help the Syrian air-force in its battle against ISIS and strengthen its air-defences against potential attacks from US or Turkish aviation.

According to Russian media sources, six MiG-31 jets have already landed in Syria. They are part of a billion-dollar deal signed in 2007 to supply Syria with eight MiG 31’s and a larger number older MiG 29M’s. The delivery of the newer jets had been suspended for two years, allegedly because of pressure from Israel and US imperialism.

Renewed Turkish demands for a “no-fly” zone and “safe-haven” in northern Syria, are allegedly intended to curb ISIS. The real purpose is to help ISIS crush the Syrian Kurds, whose partisans, along with Syrian loyalist troops, have swept the terror gangs out of most of the northern frontier. Significantly the six Mig 31’s exactly match the six F-16 fighters the US deployed at the Turkish Incerlik air base on 9th August.

The Russians say that the only way to defeat ISIS, which controls large swathes of Iraqi territory and some regions in eastern Syria, is for all the players in the region including Syria, to combine their efforts. Turkey, the feudal Arabs and above all, the Americans, still want Assad out. But as Lavrov said: “Without a broad coalition of all those fighting the terrorists on the ground, the airstrikes conducted by the US-led coalition will not achieve the desired result and ISIS will not be destroyed.”

US imperialism, despite its recent agreement with Iran over the nuclear issue, is still determined to remove what it sees to be the last remaining Arab obstacle to the American dream of total hegemony in the Middle East.

Earlier this month US foreign minister John Kerry said: “Assad and the Assad regime long ago lost legitimacy” and his office has branded the Assad government “a root of all evil”.

This is the usual double- standards of imperialism. As Lavrov put it “When the goal was to get rid of chemical weapons, Bashar Assad was legitimate partner. But, when it comes to fighting terrorism, he is for some reason not.”