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Russia is welcome in the Middle East—up to a point

Arabs encourage Russia's economic advances but are wary of political ones

When Rosneft's chief executive Igor Sechin announced in December 2016 that the Russian firm was taking a 30% share in Egypt's giant offshore Zohr gasfield, Eni had cause to celebrate. For it had further spread the risk associated with developing it, having earlier sold a 10% stake to BP. But Eni's satisfaction was very likely nothing compared to that expressed by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when he hosted Sechin at his palace in Cairo. To have a Russian firm involved prominently in a prestige project like Zohr fits with Sisi's strategy of diluting his country's economic dependence on the US and other Western nations. It's a strategy that most Arab governments are adopting. Iraq has welc

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