What is Russia's role in resolving conflicts in the Middle East? What is the policy of official Beijing toward the Middle East? How can Muslim theological thought help to combat the spread of extremism? We have talked about this with Boris Dolgov, the senior research fellow of the Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, candidate of Historical Sciences (Russian equivalent of PhD degree).
- What is Russia's role in resolving conflicts in the Middle East? How is it estimated in the countries of the region?
- Russia is currently the main country helping to resolve conflicts in the Middle East. First of all, it relates to the Syrian conflict. Basically, with the support and assistance of Russia ISIL (also known as ISIS, a terrorist organization which is outlawed in Russia – editor's note) was defeated, the statehood and territorial integrity of Syria was preserved. Genocide, which could have been possible if radical Islamist groups and ISIS (a terrorist organization which is outlawed in Russia– editor's note) had seized power also was prevented by Russian support.
Syrian Raqqa destroyed during the fighting / Public Domain
In Yemen, Russia, through political dialogue, helps find consensus by taking into account the interests of different parties to the conflict – the Houthi movement; supporters of President Hadi and the Southern Movement.
Russia is also making certain efforts in Libya for the peaceful settlement of the de facto disintegration of statehood that has occurred as a result of NATO’s armed intervention in the internal conflict in Libya in 2011.
Appreciation of Russia's role in the settlement of these conflicts has been repeatedly expressed by their participants and confirmed by the fact that representatives of almost all the conflicting parties from Syria, Yemen, and Libya visited Russia, as well as our Institute of Oriental studies, to negotiate, present their positions and requests in promoting the settlement.
- What are the interests of the opponents of Russia's involvement in geopolitical processes?
- Opponents of Russia's involvement in geopolitical processes in the region have their own specific interests in these conflicts, which are not about their settlement. So, they try to squeeze Russia, whose policy contributes to the settlement of these conflicts, out the region.
- Many experts have noted that the victory against radicalism, which is covered by religious – Islamic – discourse, is impossible until the idea of armed struggle to establish a Muslim state is discredited. How do you asses the progress in this regard? Is it possible that Russian theological institutions (the Bulgarian Islamic Academy for instance) will offer an ideological product that can neutralize this problem?
- Of course, Russian Muslim theological institutions and, in particular, the Bulgarian Islamic Academy can contribute to opposing radical Islamist doctrines that distort the provisions of the Quran. More specifically, in the true Quran interpretation of the concept of "Jihad" (holy struggle).
UN headquarters building in Baghdad destroyed after the terrorist attack on Canal Hotel in 2003 / Public Domain
- Can migration processes from Africa and the Middle East directly affect Russia and the territory of Eurasian integration? Or will these flows of people continue moving to the European Union, and Russia will remain attractive mainly for people from the post-Soviet republics? In general, can we say that the demographic factor has been "politicized" in the context of the Middle East and is now turning into a geopolitical problem, which is relevant to Russia?
- Most likely, migration flows from Africa and the Middle East will continue to go to the EU, which will aggravate the problems with migrants. This process is already turning into a geopolitical problem, which Russia must certainly take into account in its foreign policy.
Yazidi refugees in August 2014 / Creative Commons
- We know that China is very actively promoting its own interests in Africa. What is the policy of the official Beijing toward the Middle East? From news reports, it is impossible to say that the Chinese are active in the region, unlike traditional players such as the USA, Russia, and Turkey.
- China has a very pragmatic foreign policy, showing activity in the regions where there are specific economic or military-strategic interests. In the Middle East, first, the interests are to obtain energy and preserve and strengthen relations with Iran, as well as with Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas producing countries of the Persian Gulf. In the Syrian conflict, China supports the Syrian government mainly at the diplomatic and political levels, based on its strategic partnership with Russia.
Interviewed - Ilmira Gafiyatullina