Next Russian Moves in the Middle East


2014-06-30 The Russians have re-entered Iraq with the delivery of Sukhois to assist the current Iraq government to fight back against insurgents.

This move is limited, but allows them to play a card linking them more effectively with the current Iraq regime, Syria and Iran.

According to the Moscow Times:

The deals for the fighter jets, which were expedited due to the “emergency situation in the country,” are worth up to $500 million, BBC News reported.

A statement on the Iraqi Defense Ministry’s website on Saturday confirmed that five Su-24 jets had been delivered and stationed at various air bases, saying the jets would boost the “combat capability of the Air Force and the armed forces to eliminate terrorism.”

Russia’s delivery of the jets seems to be the latest sign of its growing influence in the Middle East.

During a visit to Damascus on Saturday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called on the U.S. and Europe to jump in and help fight the rising tide of terrorism in the region, urging the West to follow Russia’s example of “not standing idly” by while terrorist groups seize control of more and more cities in Syria and Iraq, The Associated Press reported.

According to another Arab source, Asharq Al-Awsat:

Hakim Al-Zamili, a member of the Security and Defense Committee in Iraqi’s parliament, told Asharq Al-Awsat the country’s decision to buy the Russian fighter aircraft was motivated by a number of reasons. “One of which was the fact they were used aircraft, which meant they did not fall under the controls applied to the import of new weapons which take a long time to deliver,” he said.

He added that Iraq had used such aircraft during previous wars with “Iran and the US where they proved their effectiveness,” and that a number of Iraqi pilots were already familiar with the aircraft, which could be deployed immediately without the need to train the pilots.

Zamili, a prominent member of the Shi’ite Sadrist Movement, added that the aircraft were relatively cheap because they were used by the Russian Air Force in the 2008 war against Georgia, “and are, therefore, still active.”

In reply to a question about a 4.2-billion-dollar contract signed with Russia in 2013, which caused controversy and prompted allegations of corruption, Zamili said: “That contract still exists, and Iraq received many weapons and equipment to fight terrorism under the contract.”

He added that the deal “was reviewed from a number of angles and agreement was reached to implement it, and accordingly, arms have been arriving but they did not include Sukhoi aircraft.”

Iraq had also signed contracts with the US to buy F-16 fighter aircraft, he said, “however, their delivery was delayed and the US does not seem to be keen to supply Iraq with specific types of heavy weapons.”

And moves in Iraq, Iran, Syria and elsewhere are enhancing the Russian ability to play out a role in the Gulf states as well.

Action has its own impact, and moving pieces on the global chess board makes you a player.

In a piece published recently by the editor of Russia Direct, Yuri Barmin looks at the evolving Russian-Saudi relationship.

At a time when the White House is considering sending military aid to Baghdad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is visiting Saudi Arabia – a longtime U.S. ally in the region and key stakeholder in the Iraqi crisis.

Russia has been looking to play a bigger role in the Middle East, but Moscow’s inability to win over the Gulf – the key to influencing the Middle East – has continuously prevented it from replacing the United States as a reliable partner to the regional powers.

Against this backdrop, Lavrov’s visit to Saudi Arabia has presented Moscow with an opportunity to prove to the Gulf countries that it is in fact the Kremlin, and not the White House, that nowadays holds sway over a troubled Syria and disobedient Iran.

Meanwhile back in Washington……

Editor”s Note:

Asharq Al-Awsat (Arabic: الشرق الاوسط‎, meaning “The Middle East”) is an Arabic international newspaper headquartered in London. A pioneer of the “off-shore” model in the Arabic press, the paper is often noted for its distinctive green-tinted pages.[2]

The New York Times in 2005 called Asharq Al-Awsat “one of the oldest and most influential in the region”.

Although published under the name of a private company, the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, the paper was founded with the approval of the Saudi royal family and government ministers, and is noted for its support of the Saudi government.[2] The newspaper is owned by Faisal bin Salman, a member of the Saudi royal family.

Launched in London in 1978, and printed in 12 locations internationally,the paper is often billed as “the leading Arab daily newspaper”,and calls itself “the premier pan-Arab daily newspaper”based on the fact that past estimates of its circulation have given it the largest circulation of the off-shore Pan-Arab dailies, a category including its chief competitor Al-Hayat.

However, reliable estimates are available only from the early 2000s, before rival Al-Hayat launched a massive effort to increase circulation in Saudi Arabia.

Asharq Al-Awsat covers events through a network of bureaus and correspondents throughout the Arab World, Europe, United States, and Asia. The paper also has copyright syndications with the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Global Viewpoint, permitting it to publish Arabic translations of columnists like Thomas Friedman and David Ignatius.