Putin responds to the letter of a Syrian girl and honors her. "I was very touched!" said the Russian leader. Source: Courtesy SANA.

Iman Ali, a nine-year-old Syrian girl, sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

In it, she attached a drawing which she made, and, some words of gratitude to the Russian head of state.

Somehow, it got through … and, as we now know, it touched a nerve in the steely leader’s heart.

Yes, contrary to reports, Putin does have a heart. Every man does, it’s just sometimes harder to reach with some people.

Especially for a man like Mr. Putin.

They once asked former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, why he continued to meet with Putin, after all the crap that has gone down recently, between East and West.

Chretien, in his typical Shawinigan logic, replied: “Maybe you have to be a tough guy, to run a country like Russia?”

In a special reception at the Russian embassy in Syria, the youngster was presented with gifts and a letter from the Russian leader, Moscow news agency TASS reported.

“I was very touched by your words of gratitude and respect. The sincerity of these lines shows that every child dreams about a clear sky and simple human happiness in their home,” Putin said in the letter, read by Russian Defense Ministry General Staff deputy head Alexander Chayko.

Russian President Vladimir Putin embraces Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.[File: Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Pool]

“I am certain that, thanks to such talented and determined children with a kind and open heart, the Syrian state will have a bright future.”

The gifts included a toy dove, a large plush bear and a doll.

The kinder, gentler Putin was right on that count, every child does deserve a clear sky and simple human happiness in their home. No argument there.

Where he’s not right, is that that children in Gaza, and other places, including the US and Europe, also deserve this.

It’s no big secret, that with each passing day, Putin is adding more and more weapons to the Russian arsenal, some of them frightening doomsday devices, as well as hypersonic missiles, which at this point cannot be stopped.

Nevertheless, whether the FSB flagged this as a PR opportunity, or, if it was genuine, it shows that maybe there is room to call on the Mad Russian’s better nature.

Much like President John F. Kennedy tried to appeal to Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev’s humanity in the 1960s, perhaps there is still an opportunity for dialogue between East and West.

The Soviet leader’s son, Sergei Krushchev, recounted his father’s words, during the height of the Cuban missile crisis, when the two nations teetered on the edge of nuclear war.

“[My father] told me, ‘I trust the American president,’ ” Khrushchev told the Baltimore Sun in 1999. “ ‘I think he’s an honest man.’ ”

It was that simple man-to-man relationship and mutual respect, which may have saved humanity from catastrophic destruction.

Meanwhile, Russian Minister-Counsellor in Syria Eldar Kurbanov noted that Iman might have a diplomatic future.

“Your letter reached Russian President Vladimir Putin, he replied to you. This is very serious diplomatic work, you have all the makings. Therefore, when you grow up and desire to have a diplomatic career, you will succeed at everything,” the Russian diplomat noted.

Iman Ali disclosed that she loves Moscow, which she visited recently. The girl thanked the Russian and Syrian Armed Forces that fight against international terrorism in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin inspects a ground-attack helicopter at a base in Korenovsk, in western Russia. Putin has supplied advanced defensive missile systems to Syria. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Pool)

“As a child ambassador of Syria, I address the adults of the entire world — to do everything so that international terrorism does not make a comeback in our country. Help us restore everything that was destroyed,” the girl said.

Russian officials said Iman Ali and her family live in Syria’s Latakia. The girl studies Russian language and says she very much loves Russia and its culture.

In the span of five years, Russia not only managed to preserve the Syrian government but also largely eliminated and marginalized the moderate opposition – the main challenger to President Bashar al-Assad’s legitimacy and the only other political-military force whose participation in government would have been acceptable to the West, Al Jazeera reported.

Russian airpower combined with Iranian-backed militias on the ground played a decisive role in preventing the Assad regime’s collapse by neutralizing a large segment of armed opposition and brutally reasserting regime control over much of Syria.

Russia’s leading role in Syria also gave it regional leverage.

It forced Turkey to re-engage, following a crisis in relations caused by the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces, in 2015. The failed coup attempt against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2016, accelerated the process.

Russia’s perceived success in Syria also encouraged other countries in the Middle East to seek improved relations with Moscow amid the US pivot out of the region.

The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Sudan, and Israel have all paid visits to Moscow in recent years.

This allowed Russia to enter into the Libyan fray, albeit late, and seek a say in the future of the country by backing the offensive of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar on the capital Tripoli.

As of early 2021, the conflict appears to be entering a period of stalemate marked by more static conflict lines. However, the conflict is not entirely “frozen” as Syria remains inherently volatile, the United States Institute of Peace reported.

Some areas — notably Idlib and parts of northeast Syria — still hold the potential for major contestation. 

Credit: TASS, Al Jazeera, United States Institute of Peace