Putin extends olive branch to Arab League on Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to extend his influence in the Middle East by being a little chummy with the Arab League. TASS in Moscow reports Putin’s main focus was regional stability in his missive to Arab League members.

“Russia is prepared to develop cooperation with the Arab League in order to ensure regional stability. I hope that in the wake of the defeat of the main forces of ISIL (former name of the Islamic State terror group, outlawed in Russia – TASS) in Syria and Iraq, we will be able together to contribute to intensifying the political settlement and post-conflict reconstruction processes in those countries and tackling pressing humanitarian issues,” the head of state said in his message of greetings to the participants of the Arab League meeting posted on the Kremlin’s website on Sunday.

Putin also noted that it is necessary to continue the fight against terror groups, while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Arab states.

According to Putin, the normalization of the situation in the Middle East is impossible without resolving the Palestinian issue. “All issues related to the status of the Palestinian territories, including the Jerusalem problem, need to be tackled through direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on a generally recognized international legal basis, including the relevant resolutions passed by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly and also the Arab Peace Initiative endorsed by the Arab League,” the Russian president noted.

One interesting thing to come out of this is the fact Putin’s statement isn’t on the Kremlin’s website anymore, so it’s possible his slide into the Arab League’s DMs didn’t go as well as he’d hoped. The group is staying relatively quiet about Putin’s gesture and there’s no word if it had any real effect on this past weekend’s summit in Saudi Arabia. It was quite curious to see an Al Jazeera report claiming the US, UK, and French airstrikes on Syria weren’t discussed at all during the gathering.

According to a summit spokesman, the leaders were to discuss the Syrian conflict but not the strikes that targeted the sites near Damascus as well as in the province of Homs.

The leaders called for an international probe while condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after the summit.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar have previously issued statements in support of the action while Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon expressed concern.

My guess is the Arab League decided to treat the airstrikes as an “elephant in the room” and one which needed to be avoided at all costs to keep shoes from being thrown at each other. The group did find plenty of time to discuss President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, so…priorities? It does show the failure of governmental bodies to get together and discuss issues because Syria is technically a member of the Arab League, although their membership was suspended in 2011. It’s quite a conundrum for the League and whether they end up figuring something out or burying their heads in the sand is another question entirely.

It will be interesting to see if any further discussions happen on the Syrian airstrikes and whether the Arab world will decide to get more involved in the civil war. They certainly seem more than willing to let the West and the Kremlin handle the load while they wring their hands and offer platitudes, and money, towards the rebels. The conflict in Syria is supposed to be a civil war yet it’s turning more and more into a bit of a proxy war between the West and Russia.

The key factor for Americans is to remember what George Washington and Thomas Jefferson said about global alliances which favor one country over another. Washington wrote in Daily American Advertiser in 1796 how troublesome and destructive these situations can become.

Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence therefore it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Jefferson was more succinct in his 1801 inaugural address.

Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none;

This doesn’t mean isolation, as many might guess, but simply being careful about crazy alliances which could pit Americans against another country instead of allowing free trade and free markets to rule the day. The world has definitely changed since Washington and Jefferson made the statements but the principal stays the same. The U.S.’ inability to remain out of entangling alliances is one reason why it finds itself being drawn further into Syria. Putin’s move towards the Arab League could actually come back to bite him as the Arab world tries to figure out what to do with a civil war which is being funded by more than a few outside actors.