As has been the trend ever since the US' 2003 War on Iraq, events in the Mideast remained dynamic all throughout the year, with the most significant military highlight being the defeat of Daesh. President Putin declared that Russia's anti-terrorist military operation in Syria was successfully completed, and he ordered the large-scale withdrawal of his country's forces as Moscow prepares for organizing the upcoming Syrian Congress of National Dialogue that it plans on holding in Sochi early next year.
In parallel with this process, the Tripartite partnership between Russia, Iran, and Turkey was strengthened as all three Great Powers reached several agreements as part of the Astana peace process, the most important of which was the formation of de-escalation zones. These two Muslim states have also tightened their bilateral ties with one another as well, dispelling the weaponized sectarian narrative that Shiite and Sunni countries can't cooperate. While Saudi Arabia and its new Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman likely frown at this development, they've been powerless to stop it, largely because Riyadh already has its hands full dealing with the fallout of the Qatar Crisis, managing the disastrous War on Yemen, and reportedly collaborating with the Trump Administration and Tel Aviv in brokering a new Palestinian peace proposal despite the US' incendiary recognition of the entirety of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Furthermore, one of the more interesting developments that's taken place across the past year is that Russia has solidly positioned itself as the region's multipolar balancer, forging new relationships with untraditional partners such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while reinforcing its existing ones with Israel, Iran, and Egypt. Not only that, but Russia has also developed strategic ties with the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, both of whom no longer stand any realistic chance of formally separating from their host states, even if the Damocles' Sword of de-facto secession is still hanging. It's this latter issue that still remains contentious, especially given the American military presence in northeastern Syria, but Russia is doing all it can to bring all sides to the negotiating table through next year's Syrian Congress.
Taken together and in spite of Trump's Jerusalem move, the Mideast is more or less stabilizing as Russia's multipolar balancing act sees Moscow emerge as the most pivotal actor in managing regional affairs, though a lot of geopolitical uncertainty still remains.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Tayyab Baloch, Islamabad-based regional security expert, writer at Geopolitica.Ru, and reporter at Abb Takk TV.
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