Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer to sell air defense systems to Saudi Arabia is about more than mere trolling, even though it caused laughter from Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. Putin was trying to persuade the entire Middle East that working with him is more effective than cooperating with the United States.

One could regard it as a kind of mafia-style protection offer: The new, more aggressive gangster on the block is making a bid because the current king of the streets has grown lazy and risk-averse.

On Monday, Putin was in Ankara for talks on the Syrian conflict with Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He made every effort to blend in, referencing the Quran and making constant references to Muslim traditions.