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It is true that some crackpots in the so-called Caliphate movement dream of “taking back” chunks of Russian territory. But they also want the whole of the Iberian Peninsula, Italy up to Rome and a good portion of France. However, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has never evoked irredentist claims against Russia. (Paradoxically, it has against Turkey!)|
Putin may not know it but the Constitution of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath (Renaissance) Party, Assad’s political instrument, includes territorial claims that would imply the dismantling of the Russian Federation. Claiming “Arab unity” as its goal, the Ba’ath Constitution speaks of a “single and indivisible Arab nation” within its “historic boundaries” stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.
That vast area consists of lands that were once raided and/or ruled by Arabs as part of various Islamic empires, including most of Ethiopia, the Sahara, much of the Mediterranean, south-western Iran, south-eastern Turkey and chunks of what is now Pakistan. The Ba’ath also regards as Arab a big arc of territory from the Ak-Tash (White Crown) mountains in Central Asia to the Caucasus, taking in virtually the whole of the Caspian Basin.
More interestingly from Putin’s point of view, the Ba’ath claims several autonomous republics of Russia as part of the historic “Arab homeland”. These include Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Charkess-Qaracahi, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Udmurtia and Ossetia among others.
Putin would do well to ponder a simple question: how could a leader who treats his own people as enemy be a true friend to a foreign power?
Putin must not confuse diplomatic strategy with intelligence campaigns. In the latter all manner of skulduggery may be in order only if because things happen in the shadows. In diplomacy, however, especially in this age of increasing transparency, no one, not even Putin, could for ever hide the true nature of Assad’s brutal regime. And when Assad falls, as he is likely to do, Putin would be left as a self-deluded accomplice rather than a visionary leader projecting machismo.
Even in the most cynical version of Realpolitik backing Assad is bad for Syria, bad for Russia and bad for international peace and stability.