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Although there is seemingly no direct link between the Russia-Georgia conflict and Russia's policy in the Middle East, the conflict could well lead to significant shifts in Moscow's posture in the region.
If the current tendencies in the Kremlin's foreign policy prevail, the Middle East may return to a situation resembling that of the Cold War, with Moscow trying to make life difficult for Washington by supporting regimes the United States considers hostile.
It is the US that Russia holds primarily responsible for what it terms the "aggressive policies" of Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president, and it is America's support for Tbilisi - including promises to re-equip Georgia's armed forces - that rattle Moscow the most. It is interesting that one of the first politicians to support Russia's actions was Syria's President Bashar Assad.
There have been reports in the Russian press that Moscow may increase its naval presence in the Mediterranean through the use of Latakia and Tartus, Syria's two ports. New arms deliveries to Damascus could well be another response from Moscow to what it perceives as America's unfriendly policies in the Caucasus. Another and potentially more serious step Russia could take is to adopt a more assertive stance over Iran's nuclear program and international sanctions against Tehran. It is interesting that in the wake of the crisis in Georgia, US military action against Iran, which some people claimed to be imminent before the end of the year, looks less likely as Washington has to tackle the Caucasus problem first.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed some support for Russia's actions at the recent summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Dushanbe, though Tehran did not rush to recognize the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Indeed, Moscow got some moral support but nothing much in terms of real political solidarity from those it counted on, especially China and Iran. Yet these countries would appear to be among the few to which Russia will turn to for support in case its standoff with the West over Georgia continues.