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Islam and Politics ( 7 Dec 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Arab solution for Syria has no place for Assad : New Age Islam’s Selection From World Press, 8 December 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

December 8, 2015

Arab solution for Syria has no place for Assad

By Khaleej Times

More powers enter Mideast fray. But still no real strategy

By Raghida Dergham

ISIS problem can only be solved by regional Sunni powers

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

Identifying the real victims of terrorism

By GWYNNE DYER

Explaining the Russian-Turkish fallout!

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

 

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Arab solution for Syria has no place for Assad

Khaleej Times

December 8, 2015

Syria being an Arab state needs a Gulf and Arab solution. That's where the Gulf states, with their economic and political clout come in.

Syria and terrorism are likely to top the agenda at the annual GCC meeting in Riyadh on Wednesday. What stand will Gulf countries take with the US slowly coming round to the Russian view that President Bashar Al Assad - who is part of the problem in the country - should also be part of the solution? A forceful GCC position that Assad should go will send the right message that Gulf nations can act on their own, to defend their interests, like they did in Yemen to oust Al Houthi rebels.

Syria, however, is complicated with Western, Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah presence already there. How can Gulf states show they mean business in Syria when they are involved in Yemen. Men and materiel are being sent to defend positions in Aden, reinforcements are being rushed to take the capital, Sanaa. The efforts of Gulf and Arab nations have driven out the rebels from Aden and limited Iranian influence.

Syria being an Arab state needs a Gulf and Arab solution. That's where the Gulf states, with their economic and political clout come in. Too many players in the country threaten to disrupt or delay a just solution for ordinary Syrians, who have already lost everything in the conflict. More than 250,000 people have died in four years; 12 million have become refugees. The GCC can bridge the Gulf in Syria by bringing the sides together to defeat Daesh, then bring down Assad - the more difficult task.

But first, there must be no further delay in taking the fight to Daesh in their badlands in Syria and Iraq. It is important to nail the group and ensure it does not rear its head like it did in Yemen and other parts of the Middle East and Europe. Offshoots of the terror group like Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are running amok in Africa. Once Daesh is cornered in Syria, consensus will emerge on Assad. A neutral leader, not prone to excesses like Assad, and acceptable to all sides, should head the transition government in the country. Easier said than done, but that's what Syria needs - a just solution.

khaleejtimes.com/editorials-columns/arab-solution-for-syria-has-no-place-for-assad

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More powers enter Mideast fray. But still no real strategy

By Raghida Dergham

7 December 2015

The scattered approaches of the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Britain, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Qatar and others –  those involved in military operations in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya – are, despite all pretenses, tactics rather than real strategies.

Perhaps Iran alone has a strategic vision, as it fights proxy wars far away from its cities and villages, just like Russia, the U.S., and Europe are doing. The losses of Arabs in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen are paid as ransoms to the Iranian victors. However, in the folds of this apparent cohesion, there is a hidden battle raging ahead of the Iranian elections, in which tactical cards are being played to crystallize a strategic vision distinct from those championed currently by the ruling echelons in Tehran, represented by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei stands halfway between the moderate camp of President Rouhani and the hardliner camp led by the Revolutionary Guards and its de facto commander Qassem Soleimani, who is overseeing Iran’s wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

While these political battles are taking place in Iran, the military battles are taking place in the Arab countries. These play an important role in the political alignment of the key Iranian players, who are masters in the arts of tradeoff and maneuvering in war and negotiation.

In truth, this is exactly what the other countries sitting opposite Iran, both on the table and in the battlefield, lack: shrewdness and stratagem.

Defining the mission

For instance, Saudi Arabia is in a dire need to clearly define the mission of the Arab coalition’s war in Yemen. It must determine the practical means to make the mission a success, and commit to a specific timetable as part of an exit strategy. But Saudi Arabia must also leave behind a Yemen that can recover, and not a dismembered Yemen.

Russia, another example, considers itself the dominant decision maker in Syria. But at the same time, it is slipping into a quagmire and is also in need of a strategy. France has a package of tactics without any strategy. Britain has admitted to its lack of strategic vision, as it watches Russia bomb the very Syrian rebels that Britain wanted to be the boots on the ground working in tandem with its air strikes.

For its part, the U.S. is either good at covering a hidden strategy behind a series of failed tactics, or is really looking for a strategy amid a pile of conflicting tactics.

A futile fight

So where do we stand and what needs to be done?

This war on ISIS, al-Qaeda and their affiliates does not appear to be serious. It will also be futile if international policies continue as they are.

A U.N. report issued this month said that between 2000 and 3000 ISIS fighters, mostly Libyans who had fought in Iraq and Syria, returned to Libya in late 2013. The report noted that “while the group is benefiting from the appeal and notoriety of [ISIS] in Iraq and Syria, it is only one player among multiple warring factions in Libya and faces strong resistance from the population, as well as difficulties in building and maintaining local alliances.”

The report notes that ISIS currently lacks the capacity to secure, hold and manage oil fields and related oil infrastructure in Libya. However, at the same time, ISIS continues to expand its control in the country, the report adds.

The good news is that Libya’s population does not accept Libyan ISIS fighters returning to the country, and that they have no access to oil revenues. The bad news is that despite this, ISIS is expanding in Libya.

NATO, which abandoned Libya after tearing it apart, has no concrete strategy there. It was fully aware that getting rid of the tyrant Muammar Qaddafi without coupling it with aiding Libya to build institutions brick by brick, would lead to rampant chaos and to the country falling into the hands of extremism and terrorism.

The UAE and Qatar differed radically over the Libyan identity that was to take over. Each nation chose the side it believed in, offering it its full support.

The U.N. Security Council refused requests from Egypt and Libya to lift the arms embargo on the legitimate government, to help it fight ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other groups. It therefore prevented nations from helping the government fight back against ISIS and al-Qaeda, and did not lift a finger to stop the spread of terrorism in Libya.

The U.N. Secretary General appointed an envoy to Libya, but the negotiations have failed because of the depth of inter-Libyan rivalries. And as the Security Council turned a blind eye to Libya, the major powers buried their heads in the sand as ISIS and al-Qaeda grew stronger there.

U.S.-led coalition

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq includes a large number of Arab and Western nations. Washington also chose Iran as a silent ally in the war on ISIS in Iraq, and turned a blind eye to violations by the Popular Mobilization Forces and Shia militias backed by Iran fighting alongside the U.S. in the war.

Washington was aware that this would inflame sectarian tensions between Shia and Sunnis in Iraq, and would weaken the enthusiasm of the Arab countries that are part of the coalition. Particularly so as no political momentum was coupled with the military momentum, to push for reforms and encourage Sunnis to join the anti-ISIS coalition.

True, the Kurds are a crucial ally in the war on ISIS, and Iran has the right to enter the war against the group. However, it is also true that there is no way to win this war unless Arab Sunnis become a direct party in the war, both on the popular and governmental levels. As long as the Sunni Arab tribes are suspicious about U.S.-Iranian goals, and are not encouraged through political reforms, they will not be enthusiastic and the war will continue to be lame and ineffective in both Iraq and Syria.

So why has Washington failed to heed the repercussions of ignoring this crucial issue in the war on ISIS, now the global public enemy number one?

Mutual forgiveness

The U.S. has been accused of fueling the Sunni-Shia conflict for 35 years now, beginning with the Iran-Iraq war in which the U.S. sided with Saddam Hussein. Tehran has forgiven Washington, after George W. Bush got rid of Saddam by invading Iraq, and its enemy the Taliban by invading Afghanistan.

Furthermore, President Barack Obama’s insistence on concluding a nuclear deal with Iran without holding it accountable for its roles in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon has become the mortar of mutual forgiveness. Yet Tehran will never forgive the Gulf countries that allied with the U.S. in support of Saddam during the war with Iran. This is one of the key reasons for Iranian hostility towards the Gulf nations, which will not go away easily and for which Syria, Iraq, and Yemen will pay dearly for.

The Obama administration stands also accused of believing the only way to fight Sunni terrorism is encouraging Shia terrorism, either in partnership with it, as in Iraq, or by turning a blind eye to it, as in Syria, or by letting it grow, as in Yemen.

In Yemen, al-Qaeda is growing strong and is regaining territories Houthis evacuate. This is not a deliberate intention by the Yemeni government or the Arab coalition, but is caused by the fact that the U.S., which was previously actively fighting al-Qaeda in Yemen through drones, is no longer interested in continuing this.

Now is the time, however, to empower the legitimate government and help it spread its control over the territories it recovers, to prevent al-Qaeda from filling the vacuum. This will not happen, though, because the international community, especially the U.S., is not willing to help in this regard.

One reason is that the international community seems to want Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies to become further implicated in the Yemeni quagmire, which would impoverish and weaken these nations. If al-Qaeda fills the vacuum, the Arab Gulf nations will be readily blamed for entering the Yemeni war against the Houthi rebels and their allies’ deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Irrespective of whether or not the international community understands that Saudi Arabia had no choice but to act in defense of its national security from the Iranian-backed Houthi threat across the border with Yemen, there is a crucial need for Saudi Arabia to revisit its options in Yemen now.

Saudi national security

In Saudi Arabia, some voices are calling on the government to give priority to Yemen instead of scattering its efforts in Syria or in the war against ISIS. They argue that Yemen is a matter of Saudi national security, and that failure to regain control would lead to wasting dozens of lives and billions of dollars. What these voices want is a clear strategy, with a clear beginning and end, to avoid costly setbacks that undermine gains on the ground.

Resuming negotiations sponsored by U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and concluding an agreement as soon as possible would the cornerstone of any exit strategy. It is in the interests of Riyadh, as leader of the Arab coalition, to give maximum support for the U.N. envoy’s efforts and push for a political solution. It is in the interest of all Arab coalition countries to stop the attrition that some regional and international powers would like to see continue.

Perhaps the comparison between Arab coalition strikes in Yemen and Russian strikes in Syria is useful, in terms of their failure to complete the mission alone, and in terms of the need for an international political process as the primary instrument of an exit strategy.

Moscow is most in need of the Vienna process on Syria, which it launched in partnership with other international powers, entrusting it to U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura. Russia wants to see an end to its military operations, before becoming further implicated and drained.

Air strikes in Syria, Yemen, or Iraq have a huge human cost. Even if Moscow and Washington say they are targeting the scourge of terrorism, there are innocents in the areas they hit and they cannot be considered mere “collateral damage”. The same applies to Arab coalition strikes in Yemen. Therefore, it is necessary to set a timetable to end the strikes, so that these do not end up being destruction for destruction’s sake in violation of international humanitarian laws.

The Russian-Saudi relationship currently involves both Yemen and Syria. Riyadh needs Moscow in Yemen, or at least, needs Russia not to intervene or back Iran’s efforts there. Moscow needs Riyadh, which will soon host a conference of the Syrian political and military opposition factions, in a bid to give a boost to the Vienna process.

Assad knot

The main contentious issue between the two countries remains the “Assad knot”, the fate of Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s future, as well as the sale of advanced Russian weapons systems to Iran. These are not minor issues, and they must be addressed urgently if political agreements are to produce an alternative to the quagmires and conflicts.

Moscow and Riyadh understand this well. Riyadh is aware that it will not be able to unravel the Russian-Iranian alliance, and the most it aspires to achieve now is to improve relations with Russia in general, and keep Moscow neutral in Yemen. For its part, Moscow does not want its alliance with Iran in Syria alongside Assad there to cause it to be caught in quicksand, and is therefore relenting.

Iran, in turn, has read the transformations and developments, and has its own tactical and strategic calculations, but Iran is not infallible. It is playing many cards with overconfidence. The militias Tehran has created and exported to Syria, for example, are fighting alongside the regime in Damascus, deliberately targeting moderate opposition elements that Britain has said they are indispensable in the war, claiming they number 70,000.

If Russia and Iran are confident Washington, London, Riyadh, Ankara, and Paris will bless their campaign to crush the Syrian opposition, which will be the boots on the ground for their air strikes, then there could be a deeper agreement that we don’t know about. And if these capitals believe Moscow and Tehran’s attacks on the Syrian opposition will harm their interests, then they must communicate this seriously to Russia and Iran. Otherwise, the impression that ISIS is a bogyman for much sinister goals will only be reinforced.

Raghida Dergham is Columnist, Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, and New York Bureau Chief for the London-based Al Hayat newspaper since 1989. She is dean of the international media at the United Nations. Dergham is Founder and Executive Chairman of Beirut Institute, an indigenous, independent, inter-generational think tank for the Arab region with a global reach. An authority on strategic international relations, Dergham is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an Honorary Fellow at the Foreign Policy Association. She served on the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum, and is a member of the Development Advisory Committee of the IAP- the Global Network of Science Academies. She can be reached on Twitter @RaghidaDergham

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/world/2015/12/07/More-powers-enter-Mideast-fray-But-still-no-real-strategy.html

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ISIS problem can only be solved by regional Sunni powers

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

7 December 2015

Should the West be involved in Syria? Or get more involved, as is now planned? It is certainly true that ISIS poses a threat to security in the West. After the recent scenes in Paris and Brussels, there is no longer any doubt about that.

But we have long known that the West cannot solve the ISIS problem itself. The more it intervenes, the more it gives credence to the ISIS narrative that there is a war between Western Crusaders and Muslims in ‘Muslim Lands’.

The West could, if it had the motivation, simply crush ISIS. But if it just went in and did that, a new ISIS would just spring up from the ashes – and though we may yet lack the imagination to foresee how, that new ISIS may well turn out even more brutal and malignant.

Local population

The war in Syria and Iraq is not going to go away. And it probably won’t be solved by the “big powers” posturing about in conference halls. There are tens of thousands of ISIS fighters. They rule over a territory with an estimated population of up to 10 million. The same way that Sunni ISIS cannot hold Kurdish and Shia territory, the Sunni lands that ISIS control will not accept Shia government from Damascus or from Baghdad, and submission to leaders like Assad, or indeed Malaki, both of whom have dropped cluster munitions on Sunni civilian populations and, in the case of Assad, much, much worse.

The fact of the matter is that many in the local population in the ISIS controlled lands, though they may not be too keen on the ideological excesses of ISIS, feel safer under ISIS administration and protection than they would from either of the Shia governments. Or indeed, under any kind of Western-backed administration, given our propensity to drop bombs on them or support brutal dictators (see Sisi in Egypt).

Regional Sunni powers

No, the ISIS problem can only be solved by the regional Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and the Emirates. And on paper at least, there really shouldn’t be too much to stop these countries from intervening. They certainly have overwhelming numbers and the technological edge – even though their capacity to use those numbers and the technological edge can be reasonably questioned.

Unfortunately, what they also have are conflicting interests. The main problem is that for the Sunni states, defeating ISIS would bolster the governments of both Assad and Malaki – both of whom are clients of its arch-nemesis, Iran. Turkey is making a similar calculation. It may not be a huge fan of ISIS, and it is particularly incensed by the ISIS attacks in Turkey this year. But it certainly hates Assad’s regime just as much, and it fears the Kurds much more – both of whom would benefit from the destruction of ISIS.

So the Saudis have preferred to wade into a messy civil war in Yemen against the Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels, where at least it has some kind of an idea of what it is trying to achieve. And with its resources thus distracted, the Saudis are said to have not carried out any airstrikes against ISIS since September.

Turkey, for its part, has just about managed to persuade itself to get involved after much U.S. pressure and the ISIS attacks on its soil, but it has still preferred to focus its attention on the people it considers its primary strategic enemy, the Kurds. In principle, everyone is fighting ISIS. In practice, everyone – Assad, the Turks, the Saudis, the Russians and so on – are using ISIS as a pretext to hit other groups hard, by way of associating them with ISIS. At this point, the Kurds and the Iran-led Shia militias may well be the only groups actually fighting ISIS, with U.S. and Western air support.

But so long as this remains the case, this is a war of the Crusaders and of the Shia heretics against “good [Sunni] Muslims”. As long as Europe and the U.S. try and fail to cope with the mass migration triggered by this conflict – while many Arab Gulf states take no refugees at all – ISIS can credibly tap into that pernicious Muslim victimhood narrative that Islamists have so carefully cultivated for decades. And as long as that happens, ISIS can be crushed, but they will not be defeated.

Azeem Ibrahim is an RAI Fellow at Mansfield College, University of Oxford and Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. He completed his PhD from the University of Cambridge and served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a World Fellow at Yale. Over the years he has met and advised numerous world leaders on policy development and was ranked as a Top 100 Global Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He tweets @AzeemIbrahim

english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/world/2015/12/07/ISIS-problem-can-only-be-solved-by-regional-Sunni-powers.html

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Identifying the real victims of terrorism

GWYNNE DYER

Tuesday 8 December 2015

On Sunday President Barack Obama spoke about a mass shooting in the United States for the seventeenth time in the past seven years. (There have actually been 335 mass shootings in the US already this year, but he only does the big ones.) But this time Obama spoke from the Oval Office.

He’s only done that twice before, about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the end of combat operations in Iraq, both in 2010. The shooting in California killed 14 people and wounded 21, so it wasn’t even the biggest mass killing of his administration, but it got special treatment because it was a terrorist attack.

He needed to do that because you just have to say the word “terrorist” to send many Americans into a flat panic and many American politicians into spasms of oratory overkill.

A representative example was New Jersey governor and would-be Republican presidential candidate, Chris Christie, who said: “We need to come to grips with the idea that we are in the midst of the next world war.”

The next world war? The last world war killed at least 40 million people. The next one — the Third World War that we were waiting for when I was growing up — would have killed hundreds of millions, even if it didn’t cause a nuclear winter and kill billions. With due respect to the victims, the 16 dead in San Bernardino do not add up to a new world war.

Neither do the 130 French (and a few foreigners) killed with guns and suicide bombs in Paris last month, nor the 224 Russians on the plane brought down over Egypt by a bomb at the end of October. Even in Europe, terrorism kills at the most hundreds per year; in America, it kills almost nobody.

Before this week, only 16 Americans had been killed on home soil by terrorists (linked with Al-Qaeda or Daesh) in the past 14 years (13 soldiers killed by US Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, and three killed at the Boston Marathon in 2013). That’s an average (including the San Bernardino deaths) of two people per year killed in the US by terrorists who happen to be Muslims. .

So why didn’t Barack Obama finish his speech by pointing out that Americans are 170 times more likely to drown in the bath than to be killed by Daesh or AL-Qaeda terrorists?

Because no public figure in the US is allowed to say that the terrorist threat is very small in the West generally, and utterly minuscule if you actually live in the US.

You’re not allowed to say it because more than 6,000 American soldiers have been killed in two foreign wars that were justified by the 9/11 attacks (although Obama was bold enough to say plainly in his speech that those wars actually served the extremists’ purposes).

And you’re not allowed to say it because almost 3,000 Americans died on 9/11: That single attack 15 years ago has permanently defined the scale of the terrorist threat in American minds, even though the likelihood that a comparable attack could be mounted today is extremely small. (In 2001, nobody was looking out for such an attack; now they are.)

On the one hand, we have a trillion-dollar “war on terror” defended by a US military and security establishment that has grown fat on the proceeds. On the other hand, we have a very small terrorist threat to the “homeland” against which, for the most part, that establishment’s efforts are irrelevant because the attackers are homegrown, self-radicalized lone wolves.

None of the three “Islamist” attacks over the past 14 years was planned from abroad. All were carried out by US citizens or permanent residents. None of those people, so far as is known, was even in contact with organizations like al-Qaeda or Daesh (although Tashfeen Malik pledged her allegiance to the latter on her Facebook page on her way to the massacre at the Inland Regional Centre in San Bernardino).

The extremists pose an existential threat to Syria and Iraq. They are a serious threat to the other Arab countries and a rather more distant problem for other Muslim countries. For western, Asian and African countries that do not have large Muslim populations, they are merely a strategic nuisance.

If any of those outside powers want to fight the Islamists on home ground (like the NATO countries and Russia, who are all now bombing Daesh targets in Syria), then by all means do so. You might save the Syrians from a very unpleasant fate. But don’t imagine that this is necessary for your own defense.

Conversely, don’t worry that the bombing will cause terrorist attacks on you at home.

Those attacks will happen no matter what the US (to pick an example at random) is doing or not doing abroad. And a country that can blithely ignore 63 shooting attacks in its schools since the beginning of this year can manage to live with a small Islamist attack every few years too.

arabnews.com/columns/news/847216

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Explaining the Russian-Turkish fallout!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Dec 8, 2015

History and psychology may help in explaining current affairs. In the case of Russian-Turkish relations, they certainly do.  Here we are watching a power play of two exceptional personalities, representing great, proud, rebounding peoples. Both men came to power in the new millennium to save their civilized, ancient nations from going under.

Separated from the Soviet Union Empire, Russia went into bad times. As it moved from its Marxist principles to capitalism, the Yeltsin administration was so busy selling state assets cheap, that it helped in dividing the nation into two tiers — ultra rich and ultra poor. The new mafia and capitalist class ruled a country that lost both its global prestige and self-confidence.

In ten years, form 1990 to 2000, a broken Russia was using World Bank loans to feed its population. The hurting ex-empire was calling out for a savior.

Then comes Vladimir Putin, the ex KGB lieutenant colonel, to Russia’s rescue. Putin, who grew up in better times, was a witness during his service with the Yeltsin administration (1991-1999) the fall of Mother Russia into chaos. He is a great admirer of Peter the Great, “Emperor of All Russia” (1682-1725), who single handedly built “New Russia,” which Putin vowed to revive.

Fifteen years, since he took over from President Yeltsin (May, 2000), Russia today is back in the “Superpower Club.” Just before the Ukrainian fiasco it had a strong, growing and vibrant economy. He also managed to resurrect the disintegrating Red Army into the second most powerful military in the world.

Putin is proud as he should be for his achievements, and is not about to let any person, country or incident steal the limelight from his show.

Turkey, before 2000, had a similar story. Its imperious glorious past was fading in the face of depressing new realities. Its economy was going south due to decades of mismanagement, military coups, political instability and corruption. Like Russia, it was addictive to heavily conditioned World Bank loans. And like Putin, Recep Tayeb Erdogan (2003) came to Turkey’s rescue.

In 12 years, Turkey has managed to pay all its debts, revive its economy, advance its industry, and return close to its glorious past. The proud nation became prouder, and its savior, too.

Now, here we are watching a face-off between two powerful, wannabe emperors. Collaborating, they were considerable partners. Each representing an exceptional nation that’s on a comeback trail. They were wise enough to forget the darker parts of their history, when they were archenemies for three centuries, and good enough to become partners in development.

Putin, who won every war he initiated (Chechnya, Abkhazia, Georgia, Ukraine) while expanding his empire each time, is facing a dangerous failure. A calculative gambler, he went to Syria to protect Russian interests, regain a wider grip in the world scene, forcing the West to rethink their economic embargo, and further foster his and his country’s pride and legacy.

Erdogan is paying a tremendous, unsustainable price for hosting millions of Syrian refugees and the Russian bolstering of his arch rivals — former ally, Bashar Assad and his economic, religious and historical competitor, Iran. National Security is always a red line. Russian intervention in neighboring Syria is worsening an already dangerously complicated situation.

Not only Russia is supporting the source of all dangers, the Assad regime, but also bombing Turkish allies and the Turks minority in Turkmen mountain. Putin has occupied parts of independent countries, under the pretext of protecting Russians in Abkhazia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. He should know better.

According to established international military rules of engagement, the downing of the Russian bomber was legitimate. The response is automatic and doesn’t need a higher authority than the gatekeepers. The Russian Air Force would have done the same, as Putin always warned, if NATO member violated the Russian skies. Russia shot down an American spy plane in 1960s, and Iran downed US and Israeli spy planes (2011-2015) that violated its airspace. America and Israel couldn’t even protest. They knew the rules and accepted the punishment.

Putin should have done the same. Instead of losing more of his waning credibility, he should have come clean and explained the many intrusions of his aircraft in recent weeks. He cannot expect courtesy and leniency every time — unless underestimating Turkey and NATO resoluteness and strength.

To demand an apology, instead of offering one, could only be explained as a personality issue: Super Putin cannot be seen cowering to a lesser nation. US “war toys” cannot be seen as superior to his. And Erdogan, terrorism or Western conspiracy had to be held responsible for Russia’s failures and miscalculated adventures.

Turkey, the Middle East and the world is expecting more Putin bravados and blunders. As the Syrian quagmire becomes deeper and costlier, he will become more belligerent. An angry and injured bear is bad news for all!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi

saudigazette.com.sa/world/explaining-the-russian-turkish-fallout/

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