News / Middle East

Kremlin’s Syria Policy Hurts Russia’s Position in Arab World

Kremlin Syria Policy Hurts Russia In The Arab Worldi
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December 24, 2012
In the days of the Soviet Union, Moscow was a major player in the Arab world. But in the last two years, the Kremlin has repeatedly backed the losing sides in the Arab Spring. James Brooke reports from Lebanon on how people see Russia’s policy on Syria.

Kremlin Syria Policy Hurts Russia In The Arab World

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In the days of the Soviet Union, Moscow was a major player in the Arab world. But in the last two years, the Kremlin has repeatedly backed the losing sides in the Arab Spring.

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad is using Russian-made rockets, rifles and tanks to battle rebels.

But in Moscow, Russian officials are trying to put daylight between the Kremlin and the Assad government. Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Kremlin is not concerned about the fate of the Assad regime, which has ruled Syria for four decades, and that changes are needed. But Russia is worried about what will come next.

How does Russia’s position play in Anjar, a Lebanese border town clogged with Syrian refugees?

Deeb Abdel Khalik runs charity groups helping refugees from the same Syrian Muslim branch that is rebelling against President Assad.
He says Arabs now face two Israels -- Israel and its sister, Russia.

Inside Syria, Sunni rebels are threatening to kill Russian speakers, starting with Anhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian journalist kidnapped last month. In two weeks, a Russian naval task force is to reach Syrian waters to be ready to help in the possible evacuation of Russians.

In Tripoli, a northern Lebanese city, Sunni Sheikh Walid Taboush says Russia has lost support throughout the Arab world.

He says Russia does not care about the Syrian people, or the whole of the Arab world.
Only one kilometer away, but on the far side of the Muslim world’s deep sectarian divide, Abo Ali Zoumar leads a Lebanese militia of the same Alawite Shia sect as Syria’s ruling clan. He praises Russia’s position.

He says Russia’s position is honorable. He praises President Putin for remaining loyal to a friend, in good times and bad.

But in the mathematics of Islam, about 80 percent of Muslims in the world are Sunni, including almost all of Russia’s Muslims. The only two major Shia-controlled nations are Syria and Iran.

In Beirut, Paul Salem is a policy analyst directing the Carnegie Middle East Center. He says President Putin has made a losing bet on Syria’s president.

"The reading from here is a kind of incomprehension that the Russians would take such a strong position on an apparently losing bet, and continue to insist on going down with the ship as it were,“ Salen said.

Salem says this is undermining Russia’s influence in the Arab world.

“This has certainly damaged Russia’s image, Russia’s profile, in the Middle East, in the Arab world, in the Muslim world in general. It comes at a pretty high price, with almost no gain," Salem said.

After backing the losing sides in Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, in Egypt and in Libya, is Russia doing it again -- in Syria?

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

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by: Hui Guan from: China
January 07, 2013 2:50 AM
A very detestable article from VOA once again. This war is not Shia vs Sunni, it is NATO and the US using the pretext of democracy to bring down a country using mercenaries, terrorists and their attack dogs Turkey and Qatar. Tell it like it is, the people know exactly what is going on.


by: Nixon from: USA
December 27, 2012 1:42 AM
Russia don't care Muslim, or Christian or whatever. Only Money ,who buy their weapon or soil or whatever. Now Russia don't care to be Mislim country or Christian, but Money and Power. Whoever good or bad He against if he can have money. Fair or not no problem.


by: yusef from: Puerto Rico, your colony.
December 25, 2012 7:50 AM
Your article is full of incosistencies and half-truths. The U.S. supports Israel which is hated in the Arab world and which is an enemy of Sunni and Christian Palestinians. Mubarack was your puppet, he was not really a Russian ally, and the Tunisian dictator was a French puppet. The US is supporting the Saudi Wahabi totalitarian monarchy which is oppossed to the Arab Spring. Many religious Sunnis despise the Wahabis and the Wahabis despise Shiites,Sufis and other Sunni sects. Many Sunnis are secular or arab nationalists. Your analysis is too sectarian, you are supporting the line of a state that is anti-christian, anti-women , and that created Al-Qaeda.


by: Jim from: Ca
December 25, 2012 1:04 AM
"The only two major Shia-controlled nations are Syria and Iran."

Ennngggkkk!

Forgot Iraq so soon?


by: Anonymous
December 24, 2012 11:49 PM
Did the author of this article think that the USA is the one being USED by a skilful Muslim Brotherhood? Who I may add does NOT share the same vision of democracy that the American people know, not even remotely.

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