Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Russia and the Conflict in Syria: Four Myths

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Russia and the Conflict in Syria: Four Myths
Correcting misinterpretations of Russia's role in Syria's civil war

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2013 - We are pleased to offer members of the media a preview of Council fellow Mark N. Katz's new essay in the summer 2013 issue of the journal Middle East Policy.  Titled "Russia and the Conflict in Syria: Four Myths," Dr. Katz's essay challenges commonly held assumptions about Russia's national interests in Syria, providing guidance to U.S. policy makers assessing Russia's motives amidst efforts to coax Syria's warring parties to peace talks.  A link to the article in full is here

Dr. Katz observes that Russia's support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has not been without costs, most notably in terms of Russia's image and relations with Sunni governments in the region.  That said, he believes that the rapidly changing political landscape in the Middle East, coupled with Russia's increasing openness to a post-Assad Syria, will ultimately leave Russia "down, but not out" in terms of influence in the Middle East:

"Moscow's support for [the Assad regime] appears to have been a grave - but not fatal - mistake.  Indeed, Moscow appears to be trying to ameliorate this by distancing itself from the Assad regime somewhat, successfully courting some (if not all) predominantly Sunni governments in the region despite their opposition to Russian support for Assad..."

Dr. Katz identifies four "myths" about Moscow's Syria policy, and seeks to address them:

  1. The myth that Russia firmly backs the Assad regime, pointing out increased Russian ambivalence towards the Assad regime in public statements;
  1. The myth that Russia holds the key to solving the Syrian conflict, arguing that it is not clear that Russia is willing or able to cooperate in a transfer of power to the opposition;
  1. The myth that Russian support for Assad has seriously damaged its ties with the wider Middle East, asserting that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are  the only states where this is really true;
  1. The myth that after Assad falls, Moscow will no longer have influence in the Arab world, observing that the removal of the Syrian conflict may actually provide an opening for greater Russian engagement in the region.
Please visit the Middle East Policy Council website for a full preview of the new summer 2013 journal, as well as the country page for Syria, featuring articles and commentary on the political, economic and historical factors impacting the current Syrian conflict.

Full article link for "Russia and the Conflict in Syria: Four Myths"

Interviews or other queries:
Contact Mark N. Katz -