Now that Putin is sending troops and weapons on a fairly substantial scale into Syria in order to help the fight against Isis — also America’s enemy — we ought to have the first really hopeful opportunity for Putin and Obama to meet together and begin to be sensible about Middle East events more generally.
America, this country and several others made a serious mistake when they decided that Basher al-Assad was a bad un, and declared war. In that way, Isis saw a wonderful opportunity to invade a weakened country. Assad and his ruling Baathist clique may well have been as ruthless and cruel as was said of them, but at least it was a secular government trying to bring a religion-sodden country into the 21st century and gradually succeeding. Instead, the country is now in danger of being set back 100 years and being more religiously-obsessed than ever.
America and this country and several more made the same serious mistake when they decide to invade Iraq in 2003 on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was a bad un. Saddam and his ruling Baathist clique may well have been as ruthless and cruel as was said of them, but at least it was a secular government trying to bring a religion-sodden country into the 20th century and gradually succeeding. Instead the country was definitely set back 100 years and is now but a simmering religious war between Sunnis and Shias.
Putin might also not be the ideal leader that one would like but if he’s on the side of the angels on the Isis issue then the least that Obama could do would be to go halfway and work with him on the problem in Syria.