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Russian influence in Middle East surges

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BEIRUT, Lebanon – The recent visit by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Cairo, Egypt, signals a renewed push by Moscow to extend its influence into the Middle East as U.S. influence wanes, according to report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Because the U.S. has suspended any military assistance to the Egyptian military over its overthrow last July of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood-backed president, Mohammad Morsi, the military leadership instead has turned to Moscow to fill any void.

They want from Russia help in developing nuclear power and to acquire billions of dollars worth of arms.

According to sources, Russia may sell Egypt some $4 billion in jet fighters, anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.

Funding will come from Sunni Saudi Arabia, which never backed the Muslim Brotherhood president and backs the military takeover of Egypt. The Saudis and other Arab countries have decided to provide Egypt with $12 billion to substitute for the suspended $1.3 billion in U.S. military assistance.

Although Sunni, the Muslim Brotherhood opposes monarchies such as those which rule the Gulf Arab States of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Instead, the Brotherhood seeks to establish Islamist caliphates in their place.

The Saudis and the other Gulf Arab countries remain upset with the U.S. over its negotiations with Iran on its nuclear development program, and for its failure to oust the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which has an alliance with Shiite Iran.

Instead, the U.S. and Russia reached an agreement to eliminate all of Syria’s chemical weapons following a Sarin attack last Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of civilians.

Syria agreed to the arrangement and the United Nations now is in the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons.

With Russia’s influence on the rise as that of the U.S. diminishes, sources say it will be important for Israel to invest in better relations and understanding with Russia.

“Moscow’s decision-making is heavily influenced by Soviet-style, anti-Israeli-inclined military, intelligence, diplomatic and arms-trading officials,” according to Russian expert Paul Felgenhauer of the Washington think-tank Jamestown Foundation.

“But there is also an active pro-Israeli lobby in town (meaning Washington) and in the Kremlin, and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin likes to balance his Middle Eastern policies while listening to both groups,” he said.

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