Russia does not need to choose between Iran and Saudi - academic

Russia is not choosing sides between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, and as long as their proxy conflict remains contained it may never have to, wrote Mark N. Katz, a professor of political science at George Mason University, for the Arab Weekly.

Relations between Moscow, and both Tehran and Riyadh remain very good, Katz said, with Russia co-operating with Iran inside Syria while working with OPEC and Saudi Arabia to keep oil prices high.

Indeed, Russia’s ability to form bonds with the pair despite their mutual antagonism has given it an advantage against the United States in the Middle East and further afield, with Russian President Vladimir Putin having the luxury of being able to position himself as a peace-making statesman while Trump looks like a party to the conflict.

The only problem could occur if proxy conflicts between Iran and Saudi Arabia explode into full-on war:

If this occurred, Washington would undoubtedly support Riyadh, thus confronting Putin with the choice of either siding with Iran or stay­ing out of the conflict. Preventing Saudi-Iranian hostility from es­calating, then, is crucial for Putin but it may be beyond his capacity.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, meanwhile, is due to meet Putin for a one-on-one meeting in Sochi on Monday.