As thousands of Russian troops made their way to Crimea this week, the media began to turn its attention to the wider implications of Russian involvement in the Ukraine. CNN’s Aaron David Miller, for example, decided to focus on the Middle East, writing that whatever the outcome of Putin’s move, Syria and Iran are likely to benefit. With Putin standing up to the international community, he wrote, victories can only reinforce the convictions of Middle Eastern leaders such as Bashar Assad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that allying themselves with Russia is a sure bet, while heeding the weak international community’s demands will not be half as profitable as standing up to them:
Although Iran is not nearly as dependent on Moscow as al-Assad is, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei looks at the crisis and sees Russian resolve in the face of a feeble West. The hardliners in Tehran will draw their own conclusions about their margin for maneuver in maintaining nuclear weapons aspirations.
Over at New Republic, US diplomat Dennis Ross was quick to point out the need for “showing leadership” in the international community’s response to recent events to prevent an erosion of Western influence in the region, warning that Iran might “see in Russian behavior an example that international norms mean little” or exploit divisions within the P5+1 in negotiations over a final-status deal.
Also on New Republic, David Rieff remarked that “the storm over Ukraine is actually mostly a displacement of the Iran debate” – changing nothing about the geo-strategic reality of the region, but bringing “American impotence” to the fore.”
And Iran? According to the semi-official Fars news agency, it’s worried about Western “meddling” in the internal affairs of other states – that is, by “greedy, expansionist” NATO, not by, say, Russia.
We’d say the media has picked up on the irony here…