Egozi: Will Russia’s Investment in Syria Bear Fruit?

Egozi: Will Russia’s Investment in Syria Bear Fruit?

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By Arie Egozi

Russia plans to force Syria to accept its demands for a massive military presence in Syria. Russia expects that after its extensive intervention in the Syrian civil war, President Assad will accept all their demands unconditionally. Moscow’s aim – to rebuild Syria and make it a new base in the area.

Professor Uzi Rabi, the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, says that the Russians expected that Assad will be open to all their demands after their investment in the Syrian civil war. “Now that the Russians are in a very bad situation, a combination of the Corona and the low oil prices, they discovered that Assad has been playing power games, and that angers Moscow very much. In this situation, Washington looks at the situation without intervening in any way, expecting that Russia would be badly affected by their new struggle to get at least some eggs if not the golden ones.”

Moscow is using all its arsenal within its efforts to be the main “contractor” that will rebuild ruined Syria, after the long civil war. This – in order to gain huge contracts that will help their badly harmed economy.

In recent days, Russian publications have described Assad as a weak man, unable to deal with corruption and one that has completely lost the confidence of the business community in his country. The results of a public opinion poll conducted by a Russian institute show that only 32 percent of Syrian citizens will vote for Assad next year. The credibility of that poll cannot be measured but the line is clear.

The Russian campaign is across the board.Russian commentators have begun to speculate about Assad’s replacement with another president and in some publications even pointed to some potential candidates.

The message from Moscow is very clear – you have to fully obey, otherwise, you will have to leave the presidential palace.

Israeli experts say that Putin has sent a clear message to Assad – accept all our demands or you will be thrown out of his palace. He made it clear that Putin demanded that Russian companies would get all the concessions they want. 

While Assad is still conducting a power game with Moscow, it is very clear that Russia intends to stay in Syria and make the country its front military base in the area. In recent weeks, Moscow acted in this direction and last week, the Russians announced that they were building a marine repair shop in the Syrian Tartus port.

The facility is called a “ship repair center” but it is obvious that its foremost task will be to serve the Russian navy ships that will operate in the Mediterranean. 

Officially, the Russians and Syrians say the port would serve as the mother port for the Russian industry, and would have a positive effect on trade between the two countries and would also improve the Syrian economy.

Israeli sources say that the Tartus port takeover will serve Russia on the military side by allowing its navy to freely operate in the region. At the same time it will enable Russia to enjoy the planned huge reconstruction program of Syria that has been turned to ruins during the civil war.

Brig. General (ret.) Amos Yadlin is a former general in the Israeli Air Force, served as Israel Defense Forces military attaché to Washington D.C., and was head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate. He now heads the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Yadlin says that the Russians had some very clear missions in Syria – to save Syrian President Assad, to defeat ISIS, to test some of their most advanced weapon systems and to show the world that they were loyal to their allies “They have achieved all these goals and now they use these achievements to make Syria their base in the Mediterranean. The U.S has its sixth fleet in these waters and now the Russians, that see themselves as a world power, are working step by step to bring their navy to the region. It will be a substitute to their presence in the port of Alexandria in Egypt that has ended in the 70s.” 

So the Russian tremendous investment in the Syrian civil war so far does not produce dividends and Washington is watching with satisfaction. But the pressure is on.

Arie Egozi, iHLS Editor-in-Chief