Bashar Assad will surely be watching Ukraine closely over the next few days and weeks. Much is at stake for his main patron there. Aaron David Miller penned a prescient op-ed on what the Ukraine crisis means for the Middle East. Some highlights:
As go Putin’s fortunes, so go those of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However the crisis turns out, with one possible exception, the Syrian regime is likely to benefit. And that exception is the highly unlikely contingency that Putin is so weakened from a botched policy in Ukraine or an uncharacteristically bold response from the United States and the West that he is permanently damaged and diminished, or removed from power. Not likely.The possibility that events in Ukraine will leave Putin victorious will only buck up al-Assad further and demonstrate that Russian street cred is rising….Victories for Russia, particularly in the face of the West’s empty rhetoric and red lines, can only reinforce al-Assad’s conviction that he’s betting on the right ally.
It’s not just Assad: Ayatollah Khamenei is also carefully watching events in Ukraine. Russia has consistently supported Iran in its conflict with Israel and the West, and Putin’s resolve in the face of widespread international condemnation is surely heartening for Tehran.Even beyond the Middle East, certain world leaders are paying close attention to how President Obama plays out this crisis. China, as we wrote earlier today, is sure to consider Washington’s response in Ukraine as an indicator of how the United States would react to increased Chinese aggression in East and Southeast Asia. North Korea too. And don’t forget, our allies are also watching: if push comes to shove on Iran, Israel will remember these days.All around the world, the leaders of ankle-biter regimes are studying America’s reaction to the Ukraine crisis. If Obama appears weak, if his rhetoric is bold but empty and backed up by little or no action, then we shouldn’t be surprised if challenges to America’s credibility and leadership pop up with increasing frequency even after the Ukraine issue simmers down.