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Qatar, Russia and the stability of the region

The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad started his official visit to Russia on Monday 18 January and there is no doubt that all eyes will be on this visit, its importance, role and results. This is especially because the visit is occurring in light of great conflicts and challenges facing the Arab and Muslim region, which Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, is considered party to, if not directly involved in. Russia is considered Iran’s political and military partner, evidenced by the fact that the invitation to interfere in Syria, given to Russia from the Syrian president, was also transferred to General Qasem Soleimani during his visit to Tehran in July 2015 on orders from Khamenei, not from the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. This is proven by the fact that the Russian intervention in Syria occurred on 30 September 2015, and Al-Assad’s involvement of Moscow occurred two weeks later.

Iran considers itself to have made sacrifices and suffered serious losses in its war in Syria over the past four years. It lost thousands of soldiers, officers and prisoners, and it will never give up Syria to Russia, even if Bashar Al-Assad wanted this. The Revolutionary Guard and Lebanon’s Hezbollah forces have filled the Syrian territories under Al-Assad’s control, while Russia realises it will not be able to object to Khamenei’s rule and the Revolutionary Guard in Syria without suffering great losses, similar to those suffered by the US in Iraq after the American-Iranian occupation in 2003 when Iran supported Al-Qaeda against the American occupation.

Sheikh Tamim has come to visit Russia in light of the military and political complications in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the Gulf, etc. this is because the Qatari government has three individuals abducted by Iraq’s Hezbollah, and there is no doubt that Russia’s pressure could speed up their release. Meanwhile in Yemen, Qatar is aware of Putin’s ability to stop the flow of weapons into the hands of the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh, and therefore, it can impact the potential to reach a political solution in Yemen. This is especially after the discussions in Geneva failed. Perhaps the hardest issue being discussed by Qatar and Russia is the Syrian issue, as the Russian leadership is still working to eliminate the moderate Syrian opposition which Qatar worked hard to support, strengthen and help in order to choose a moderate political solution.

Qatar believes that it would be a major loss for the political solution in Syria if the moderate Syrian opposition is eliminated because that will not only lead to Bashar Al-Assad’s victory, but also to his remaining in power, empowering Russia’s future influence in Syria and creating a major curse based on Russia’s intervention and turning it into a military occupation. Russia’s presence in Syria will then pose a new dilemma for Russia and the region rather than being a future political party and ally that could potentially help the Syrian people reach a solution via political means. This can also be achieved by means of the suggestions made by Putin a few days ago, including the establishment of a new Syrian constitution that would unite all factions and components of the Syrian people. Then, based on this constitution, parliamentary and presidential elections would be held in order to put an end to this black phase in modern Syrian history.

Tamim does not necessarily have to carry Turkey’s messages to Russia, but the success of his visit to Russia will definitely lead to the stability of the region based on the joint vision that unites Qatar and Russia on one hand, and Qatar and Turkey on the other. The Qatari vision for all the region’s problems are very close, if not identical, to the Turkish policies, and Russia’s quest to create a Syrian opposition that follows the political solution that will not succeed without cooperation with the Qatari, Saudi and Turkish vision. Therefore, Russia must either depend solely on the military solution – though it did not come to Syria based on this – or it must understand the other political points of view by the three main countries, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which faced the Iranian axis and its destructive sectarian policies in Syria and all decided to depend on a political solution.

There is no doubt that Russia will be very mistaken if it limits its military and political weight to the Iranian sectarian axis. This is because Russia’s true interests in the present and future lie in depending on political work in Syria with those who are also depending on a fair political solution, including the Syrian opposition. It must also work with all the countries concerned with the conflict in Syria. In addition to this, Russia’s efforts to weaken Turkey’s role in Syria will neither lead to a military or a political solution, because Turkey’s position focuses on preserving its national security and helping the major and primary Syrian factions who can represent and rescue the Syrian people. Meanwhile, Iran’s axis is depending on the minorities who lost their right to remain in power, and therefore, Russia would be mistaken and would lose a lot if it continues to rely on the sectarian minority in Syria.

Translated from Alkhaleejonline.net, 18 January 2016.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

ArticleEurope & RussiaMiddle EastOpinionQatarRussia
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