Clockwise, from left: Lavrov, Putin and Margelov
Will the Syria crisis drive Vladimir Putin to change horses in midstream and name Mikhail Margelov, current chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council of Russia, to replace Sergei Lavrov as foreign minister when he names a new government on his inauguration as president on May 7?
There is a chance Putin might, according to political analyst George Solage, a longtime media aide to Lebanon’s former defense minister Elias el-Murr writing today for the Beirut daily al-Joumhouria.
Solage says a behind-the-scenes power struggle is underway in Putin circles over the foreign ministry portfolio responsible, among other things, for management of the Syria file.
“Lavrov is striving for some sort of a Syria breakthrough in the interim to boost his chances of being named in the new government,” writes Solage, adding: “At the same time Margelov, who is close to Putin, is leading a lobby for change that accuses Lavrov of undermining Russian interests in much of the Arab world because of his defense of the Syrian regime.”
This, in Solage’s opinion, “explains Lavrov’s recent overture to Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo and the five-point understanding he reached with them, in anticipation of Russian-Arab cooperation at the United Nations and in the Security Council.”
Quoting an unnamed senior diplomat in Moscow, Solage says the Kremlin concluded that President Bashar al-Assad “can’t prevail and the opposition can’t bring him down. At the same time, Gulf Arabs erred in ignoring Russian interests…”
Before Lavrov’s meeting with Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, Solage notes, Putin sent a positive signal to the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council by dismissing the Russian ambassador in Doha (Vladimir Titorenko) for having caused a diplomatic tiff with Qatar.
Solage quotes the senior diplomat in Moscow as saying changes in the government lineup planned by Putin “would definitely reflect on the Kremlin’s foreign policy, which is currently influenced by diplomats and intelligence bigwigs who built strong personal ties with Syrian figures and security services and with the Israeli lobby in Moscow led by Yevgeny Primakov, who is pushing hard against elbowing out the Syrian regime.”