Well... that was fast. Last Thursday, in the News and Views from the Nefarium, I reviewed the geopolitical realignment that has been occurring in the Middle East and, by extension and implication, Europe. That realignment is there for all to see: American policy in the region has been a manifest failure; Russia has successfully intervened in Syria, established a no-fly zone, and made significant overtures to Israel and in a stunning diplomatic coup, managed to get Sultan Erdogan to reverse course from his Ottomania.
That, at least, was the view I and others were talking and blogging about until Mr. F. William Engdahl, whose research I respect and whose insights I value, put the record straight, or at least ironed out some of the wrinkles in the narrative; as I indicated in the last News and Views from the Nerfarium, according to Mr. Engdahl it was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that appears to have been the go-between between Moscow and Ankara, and if that is the case, then there has been a quiet, though "tectonic" shift in Israel's policy in the region, especially vis-a-vis its reliance on the USSA.
The deal was simply this: by realigning toward Russia, Israel hopes to get the help it needs to develop its Leviathan oil and gas fields, and in turn to become part of Europe's energy supplier. For Israel, it's a win, since it gives that country its own independent supply of money, and makes it less reliant on the USSA and its foreign aid. For Russia it's also a win, since it creates influence and a relationship based on mutual economic gain for the three nations involved - Russia, Turkey, and Israel - that was not there before.
And as I also pointed out last Thursday, these long-term energy development plans will mean that any route for all this energy is going to go through two likely places in Europe: through the Balkans, and through Italy, making that country a key player now, and most likely, an increasingly independent one vis-a-vis the rest of the EU.
But there's one more problem for Mr. Putin and Mr. Netanyahu: the Palestinians, as this article shared by many readers here makes clear:
Why would Moscow become involved in a process that has eluded western and American efforts? This is where the high octane speculation comes in: it seems clear that the relationship between Moscow and Tel Aviv that has developed over the past few months - with Mr. Netanyahu going to Russia more than once in those months - has been, as noted, precisely to involve Israel not only in the stabilization process of the region but to inject it into the long-term Russian strategic plans for development of the energy resources there. But there's a price tag, and the article suggests it: Israel, in return, will have to come to a meaningful agreement with the Palestinians, and probably do so at summits hosted by Moscow.
If that's the case, then what can one look for by way of confirming that speculation? Here are the signs I'd watch for, if this speculation be true: (1) Russian vetoes of any attempt to inject the UN into the process under terms Israel is opposed to (2) Russian insistence that the Palestinian state sever its ties with Hamas, (3) Russian insistence that Israel stop the settlement process and compensate Palestinians for land and damages under the program, and (4) Russian insistence that development of the Israeli energy fields be such that revenues flow both to Israel and the Palestinian state.
And of course, the real goal for Moscow would be to drive all this in a "symbolic coup," a photo-op of inestimable value, as Mr. Abbas, Mr. Netanyahu, and Mr. Putin sign such agreements under flags prominently displaying the double-headed eagle in Moscow. Such an event, articulating the above points, would signal an absolute end of post-Soviet American unipolar dominance of the region. Time will tell, of course, but in the interim, if one sees visits of Mr. Putin or Mr. Lavrov to Israel, or of Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu to Russia, then it is safe to assume that at least something of this game is afoot.
See you on the flip side...