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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Russia Stepping Back Into Middle East--But Stepping Into What? (Update: Abbas And Russia Go Way Back)

Russia is working towards getting back into the Middle East--and so far they have been successful, if Russia's latest ties with Hamas and Fatah are any indication:
Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas said they appreciated the support of Russia in their efforts to reach national reconciliation and establish a Palestinian state.


Representatives of the two movements, which signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo in early May, arrived to Moscow last Friday on an invitation from the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with members of the Palestinian Resistance factions Hamas and Fatah in a bid to extend Moscow's backing for their recent reconciliation accord.
Russia's connection with Muslims actually predates its glory years as the provider of weapons to the Arab world back when it was known as the USSR.

In fact, as Sultan Knish writes, Russia has ties with Islam that date back to Lenin:
While the Communists disdained Christianity and Judaism as backward superstitions, they took a different approach to Islam. Lenin promised Muslims that their mosques would be protected under the revolution and emphasized an approach of cultural sensitivity that respected Muslim traditions. Female Communist activists donned veils or covered their hair to work with the locals. Most shockingly, while the Communists were dismantling the Orthodox Church and Jewish synagogues-- Sharia courts of Islamic law were being administered under a Soviet Commissariat of Justice.

One of the more notable effects of the alliance was the Communist attempt to find common ground by phrasing their doctrine in Islamic terms. The Communists campaigned against religion as superstition, but this was translated as Khurafat, a campaign to cleanse heretical forms of magic. The difference was substantial and fundamental. While Communists in the rest of the Soviet Union were outlawing religion, Muslim Communists were rooting out heresies under the authority of the revolution. The USSR had become the enforcer of Islam.
But back then, Russia ended up getting in over its head--and did not get what it bargained for:
The translation of socialist ideas into the Islamic, created the illusion of common ground. Both sides heard what they want to hear. But the Communist and Muslim ideas of revolution were dramatically different. While Moscow was talking about women's equality, the Muslim Communists were filling their unwashed yurts with child wives. By the time Soviet leaders in Moscow realized what was going on, they had a civil war on their hands. The Communists won in the short term, but only at the cost of accepting Muslim practices such as polygamy. And the Muslims may have won the long war.
And this goes beyond just Chechnya.

While one can argue that Russia can handle the likes of Hamas and Fatah, there are other, bigger players in the Middle East that Russia is getting involved with--players that Russia may be underestimating.

Such as Iran

Lt. Colonel James Zumwalt, USMC (ret), wrote earlier this year that, despite his reputation for toughness, Putin and Russia may end up being exploited by Iran:
In the end, it will prove to be Russian assistance given to the Iranians in building their nuclear facilities and Putin’s reluctance to work with the US and other nations to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability that will come back to haunt Moscow. For as Russia’s Muslim population and the ranks of Islamist separatists grow in the future, the latter will be looking for a “game changing” means of imposing its influence over all Russia. That means may well come in the form of a nuclear weapon the Islamist separatists come to possess—courtesy of Iran.

Putin naively believes in a non-existent Russian/Iranian bond that places Moscow outside Iran’s crosshairs. But Iran eventually has in mind for Russia the same fate it has for other non-Islamic states—a fate shared by the Caucasus Emirate: i.e., to make the country subservient to shariah law.
Russia may be looking to reestablish its foothold in the Middle East, but this is not the same Middle East that it was able to control back in the day.

These days, Muslims are also looking to expand their sphere of influence--and Iran in particular.

UPDATE: Soccer Dad reminds me that Abbas got his Ph.D in Moscow--and what a Ph.D it was:
“...In every PA school library, the students have easy access to the doctoral thesis written by Palestinian Authority [chairman] Mahmoud Abbas only 26 years ago [later published as a book] entitled, ‘The Other Side: The secret relations between Nazism and the leadership of the Zionist movement,' which he submitted to obtain his Ph.D. at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. That is the level of Holocaust education taught in the UNRWA Palestinian schools, inculcating a new generation of Palestinian pupils to believe that the World Zionist Congress worked in tandem with the Third Reich to murder millions of Jews.”
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