THE SWIFT-MOVING crisis in Ukraine, punctuated by defiant Russian action designed to separate Crimea from the rest of the country, is being watched with keen interest throughout the Middle East.

Predictably, the positions adopted by governments and commentators reflect the existing deep divisions regarding the ongoing war in Syria. The Assad regime and its allies – some Iranian officials, Hezbollah and affiliated anti-American pundits – were quick to embrace the Russian narrative of a Western plot to undermine Ukraine’s legitimate institutions and bring it into the Western orbit. The Syrian leadership is likely to be further emboldened in its no-holds-barred fight for survival, and may also find new reasons to delay handing over its chemical weapons stockpiles for destruction.

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