“The targeted killing of Qasem Soleimani is a potential game-changer in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin certainly sees it that way. Within days, he had rushed to Damascus, Syria — not to shore up Bashar al-Assad or tighten Moscow’s grip there but to show that Russia remains a central player and cannot be relegated to the sidelines.

“His visit to Syria was one such indicator. His follow-on trip to Turkey was another. In Istanbul, he and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — the two have actively supported opposing sides in Libya — issued a joint call for a cease-fire that is set to begin Sunday. Here was Russia’s president, shortly after the killing of Soleimani, showcasing his role as the real arbiter in the region…”

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