Nikolay Kozhanov

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Watching stock movements on a display at the Dubai Financial Market stock exchange. Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images.

US president Joe Biden’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia as a part of his Middle Eastern tour was not a failure as the Russian propaganda tried to present it.

On the contrary, the US and Saudi Arabia seem to come to certain terms regarding their vision of the global oil market prospects and, most probably, steps which can be taken by Riyadh to mitigate the negative impact of high oil prices on Western economies.

While the details of US-Saudi negotiations are kept secret, the oil market expects that on 3 August – when OPEC+ members meet to discuss production quotas – Saudi Arabia may try to persuade the cartel to increase supplies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sergei Lavrov meets with GNA leader Fayez Sarraj in Moscow. Photo: Getty Images.

While the attention of the West is largely focused on Russian efforts in Syria, Moscow has been strengthening its presence in other parts of the Middle East to fortify its position as a key international player. Notably, Russian involvement in the Libyan civil war has increased substantially since 2015. It provides political support and military assistance to General Khalifa Haftar, who controls the eastern part of Libya, and helped him to wreck the UN-led Libyan agreement of 2015 aimed at launching a reconciliation process. But Moscow is also involved in the diplomatic settlement of the conflict between the main factions – Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).…  Seguir leyendo »

In early August, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in a trilateral summit with his Azerbaijani and Iranian counterparts in Baku. Though the meeting was initiated by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, one of Moscow’s main goals was to strengthen relations with Iran, a key partner for Russia in Syria and the Caspian region and in energy. The relationship certainly needed a boost.

Syria is not enough

An obvious sign of trouble between the two is the decline of Russian−Iranian trade. In 2015 trade between the two was worth $1.24 billion – the lowest value in a decade. By mid-2016, long-discussed joint projects in the energy sector were still on the drawing board and the construction of the second and third power units of the Bushehr nuclear power plant had not yet begun.…  Seguir leyendo »

Moscow has long been the world’s second largest arms exporter after the US, with average annual income in 2012−15 reaching $14.5 billion. But over the past decade, it has particularly increased its arms exports to the Middle East, part of a broader Russian strategy of re-establishing Moscow as a key player in the region.

Until recently, Russia was cautious in using weapons exports as political leverage. This has changed, and the growth of the Russian share of the Middle East arms market will make the Kremlin more decisive still. The instability in the Middle East suggests that that region will remain one of the chief markets for arms for years to come and will help Russian arms suppliers to challenge US dominance there.…  Seguir leyendo »

The international community should not be deceived by Russia’s recent statements on its military withdrawal from Syria. Moscow’s latest move is not what it appears – and actually reflects its growing dexterity in playing power politics in the Middle East.

The withdrawal of Russian forces is partial at best and related only to aircraft deployed in the country after 30 September 2015. The Kremlin has confirmed that they plan to keep both the Tartus and Khmeimim military bases fully operational and continue to provide the Assad regime with the necessary equipment, training and military support. Moscow will keep an unspecified number of advanced fighter jets in the region − which have continued airstrikes even since the announcement.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sergey Lavrov walks to a trilateral meeting with the US and Qatar on 3 August 2015 in Doha. Photo by Getty Images.

However Russia decides to react to the ongoing spat between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the consequences for the Kremlin’s goals in the Middle East will be negative.

On the one hand, keeping quiet would affect the dynamics of Russian−Iranian relations that had been on the rise. Moscow invested diplomatic and economic effort in improving the dialogue with Tehran, including the opening of a credit line. It cannot afford to lose these dividends considering Russia’s economic dire straits. The Russian authorities are desperate to retain Iran within its sphere of influence and avoid any drift westwards. Without Iranian ground forces fighting the opponents of the Assad regime, it will be difficult for Moscow to attain its goals in Syria − Russia needs Iran’s military and political support to compel the Syrian opposition and its sponsors to negotiate with Bashar al-Assad.…  Seguir leyendo »