A few days ago, Lebanese Prime Minister Seniora returned from Moscow saying "I am deeply convinced of support from Russia." A close Seniora aide told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that "Seniora stressed during his talks with the Russain officials that Lebanon's aim was to have 'good and friendly relations based on mutual balanced respect [with Syria] and that any effort in this direction would be useful.'"
Today, Bashar el Assad is in Moscow.... . In explaining the visit, a Kremlin official told Interfax News Agency that the main item on the agenda is "a just and lasting settlement of the crisis situation in the Middle East." He added, "Particular attention will be given to the situation in the Palestinian territories, around Lebanon and in Iraq ."
Furthermore, Agence France Presse quotes Russian newspaper, Kommersant, saying "Moscow wanted to restore something of its Soviet-era influence in the Middle East" and "Putin would seek [Bashar's] support for a long-standing bid to hold a Middle East conference in Moscow." The conference, writes Kommersant, could bring together "opposing sides - Lebanon, Syria and possibly Iran and the Palestinian authority and Israel." (pretty ambitious, I must say)
The AFP adds, "Kommersant noted that al-Assad's visit comes immediately after a visit to Moscow by Lebanon's pro-Western Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, whose government faces a revolt by a Syrian-backed opposition." Moscow, the newspaper writes, aims to enable "an exchange between Beirut and Damascus" by which "Syria would refrain from trying to bring down the Siniora government and Lebanon would stop accusing Syria of involvement in the murder last year of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, Kommersant said."
With regards to what the Syrians will give the Russians , AFP writes that "in an interview Monday with the official Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper, Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara talked of an important role for Russia and hinted that Syria would like to buy more Russian weapons systems." More specifically, "Kommersant said Damascus is considering buying MiG-29SMT fighter jets from Russia as well as possibly Amur-1650 submarines, Yak-130 planes and additional Pantsir-C1 air defence systems."
My Take On This Story is that the Russians are very ambitious all of a sudden. I'm left asking myself: exactly what has boosted their sense of relevance (confidence?) all of a sudden? They're talking of throwing the tribunal into the dust bin of history, hosting a peace conference that would, of all things, bring Iran and Israel to the table, and spewing all sorts of audacious initiatives into the wind. Essentially, they're telling the Americans: leave the Middle East to us, and we'll take care of things!
This tangent is, to say the very least, an interesting one to watch. Let's see where it goes.