Russia Emerges as New Power Broker in Middle East

Russia – striving to prove that it is a superpower that resolves global challenges and not a weak regional power that preys on neighboring states – concluded peace talks with Syria and 14 rebel groups in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The United States sent an observer, and author Dilip Hiro notes, “The conference in Astana saw Turkey, a key member of NATO, abandoning the US and bonding with Russia to end the Syrian conflict – a development with the potential of upgrading Syria’s civil war as a landmark in global history.” Russia took steps to reduce US influence in the Middle East by intervening on the Assad regime’s behalf in Syria since September 2015 and then extending support to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after an attempted coup in July 2016. Turkey is a NATO member, but the president opposes Kurdish fighters who have been among the most effective fighters against the Islamic State terrorists. Russia, Turkey and Iran are forming a commission to monitor the ceasefire with details to be announced at a February 8 UN conference on Syria. Russia has also outlined proposals for a new constitution for Syria and elections.