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Georgia Impacts On Middle East

Zalman Shoval: 'Syria's President Bashar Assad Has Shown His True Intentions By Offering To Deploy Russian Missiles On His Territory'

'Russian Refusal To Impose New Sanctions On Iran Will Increase Possibility Of Military Strike On Iran's Nuclear Installations'

'Russia Has No Interest In Reverting To New Cold War With U.S. In Middle East'

Syrian President Bashar Assad

The crisis between Russia and the West over Georgia has started to impact on the Middle East. Syrian President Bashar Assad has now offered Russian President Sergey Medvedev to station Russian missiles on his territory, in retaliation to the American plan to station missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. At the UN, there is also speculation that Moscow will now oppose further sanctions against Iran aimed at halting its nuclear weapons program. In an interview with IsraCast, Zalman Shoval a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, assesses the emerging situation.

'Syrian President Bashar Assad has now shown his true intentions by expressing support for Russia and proposing that Moscow deploy missiles on Syrian territory' - that's the assessment of former Israeli ambassador Zalman Shoval. In his view, Assad's position indicates there has been no change in Syria's aggressive approach and the U.S. is right in calling on Israel to halt what Shoval calls Israel's 'foolish and ill-advised' peace contacts being conducted in Turkey. At the same time, the Russians will be leery of starting a new Cold War in the Middle East with Israel and the U.S. on one side with Russia and some Arab states on the other. This would eliminate a Russian role in future peace contacts.

Russian President Putin and Syrian President Assad

Moreover, the Russians were always on the losing side in the past. In addition, there was always the danger that a cold war could go hot and the Russians realized that despite their economic comeback, they were still no match for the U.S. and NATO. If the Russians opt for blocking any new sanctions against Iran, Ambassador Shoval said Moscow should realize the failure to halt the Iranian nuclear program would increase the possibility of a military strike by the U.S. or Israel.

What is the danger that the international crisis over Georgia could deteriorate into a full blown confrontation between the U.S. and Russia. Shoval believes there is little risk that a Cuban style missile crisis will develop. Both sides have no interest in such a development and the current tensions could be defused, although more harsh words may be exchanged. Without discussing whether Georgia triggered the recent flareup, NATO decided to act in order to dissuade Russia from trying to project its control over other former member states of the Soviet Union, such as the Baltic countries and Ukraine.

As for former Israeli arms sales to Georgia and the training of Georgian troops by Israeli officers, Shoval said Jerusalem had made clear that it has no intention of getting involved in the crisis between two states with which Jerusalem enjoys close and friendly ties.

David Essing

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