Russia’s role in the Middle East – a grand plan or opportunism?
Since the start of the decade, Russia has been taking advantage of major security developments in the Middle East: the Arab Spring, including faltering regimes in Egypt and Libya; the United States’ light footprint approach, i.e. its withdrawal from Iraq and reliance on proxies in Syria and Yemen; and the growing tensions in the Gulf between Iran and the Sunni Arab states. The apex of Russia’s engagement arrived in 2015 when Moscow decided to provide militarily support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian war. Russian military intervention did not end in quagmire. Instead it empowered Assad’s forces to crush most of the rebelling groups, thus tipping the balance of power in Assad’s favour as per Russian objectives.