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Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Excerpts: Putin's politicking. Mistreatment of Saudi students. 27 November 2007

Excerpts: Putin's politicking.Mistreatment of Saudi students. 27 November
2007

+++THE DAILY STAR(Lebanon) 26 Nov.'07:"The Middle East as Moscow's ticket to
global relevance", by Konstantin Eggert*
QUOTE:"(Putin objective:) 'to keep a place at
the top table of world politics' "
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

EXCERPTS:
... Putin said that his country's foreign policy is and will remain
"independent." But what exactly does independence mean in an increasingly
interdependent world? And what does it mean for the Middle East?
"Independence" in these circumstances means "independence" from Western,
especially American, influence. This message plays well to Russia's domestic
audience, ever nostalgic for the Soviet glories and deeply anti-American.
With regard to the Middle East this means inviting Hamas to Moscow,
continuing arms sales to Syria, carping on about the United States' failure
in Iraq, and above all, acting as a chief international advocate for Iran.
Putin ... plays well to anti-American prejudices in the Middle East,
especially during his recent tour of the Gulf states. The message is
cemented by a new satellite channel Rusiya al-Yawm - an Arabic version of
Russia Today, a Kremlin-sponsored propaganda station.
There are underlying reasons for this behavior. They have more to do with
what goes on in Russia's neighborhood than with Russia's interests in the
Middle East, which, compared to those of the US, remain relatively modest.
...The Kremlin is convinced that the US is out to squeeze Russia out of the
post-Soviet space and, if the appropriate chance presents itself, to push
through regime change in Moscow itself. Hence the unofficial doctrine of
creating as many problems for Washington as possible, in order to weaken
America's focus on the former USSR and show a bit of muscle too.
. . ..
... Putin is careful not to overstep the invisible boundary that separates
competition from open conflict. He knows only too well that Russia's
political and economic resources are vastly inferior to those of the US,
especially if it should come to a political standoff in the Middle East. So,
on the one hand, the Russian president goes to Tehran to talk with President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - something no other Group of Eight leader would do
today. But on the other hand, he quickly invites Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert to Moscow in order to share his Iranian impressions with him. As
always with Putin, he leaves everyone guessing whether he has passed on some
important message or was just balancing the act. . . .
.
... what is the substance of Russia's Middle East policy? In fact, Moscow's
biggest desire (to use the words of a senior European diplomat in Moscow)
"is to keep a place at the top table of world politics." Being active in the
Middle East provides one such opportunity at very little expense because
Russia's real political and economic interests lie elsewhere, namely in the
post-Soviet space, Europe and China. The Middle East hardly makes it even to
the top five of Russia's foreign policy priorities.
Russia's favorite scenario for the region is for low intensity crises to
continue as long as possible without them spiraling out of control. Whether
on the Iranian nuclear program, Lebanon or the Palestinian issue, one thing
Moscow dislikes is taking decisions, especially on whether to side with the
West or to confront it. The former is unacceptable, the latter impossible.
Taking a quiet step aside might turn out to be the most probable scenario.
*Konstantin Eggert is Moscow bureau editor for the BBC Russian Service and
member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. This commentary
first appeared at bitterlemons- international.org, an online newsletter.

+++ARAB NEWS (Saudi) 27 Nov.'07:"US Team Told About Saudi Students'
Harassment",Raid Qusti
QUOTE:" 'harassed,mistreated or faced discrimination at airports or from US
Security Officers' "
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------EXCERPTS"RIYADH, 27 November 2007 - Officials from Saudi Arabia's governmental HumanRights Commission (HRC) as well the private human rights body, the NationalSociety for Human Rights (NSHR), brought to the attention of a visiting UScongressional delegation yesterday issues of harassment of Saudi studentsstudying in the United States..... . . many Saudi students were beingharassed, mistreated or faced discrimination at airports or from US securityofficers," ... .Under the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, 11,000 Saudi students arecurrently studying at American universities...(IMRA:!5,000 scholarshps madeavailable Sept.2006.)Al-Harithi told Arab News that the shortness of the meeting and the severaltopics raised from both sides did not allow both parties to elaborate onthese issues.. . .=================================Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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