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Russian presence in Iraq - a matter of time

Commentary Materials 3 October 2018 17:06
Post-war Iraq is not only a country with its numerous challenges such as destroyed cities and infrastructure, corruption, fight against the remnants of the Islamic State terrorist group, ethno-religious contradictions, incomprehensible to the majority of the Western public, but also with opportunities that can become a reality, if the cards are played right.
Russian presence in Iraq - a matter of time

Baku, Azerbaijan, October 3

By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:

Post-war Iraq is not only a country with its numerous challenges such as destroyed cities and infrastructure, corruption, fight against the remnants of the Islamic State terrorist group, ethno-religious contradictions, incomprehensible to the majority of the Western public, but also with opportunities that can become a reality, if the cards are played right.

Although the US is tightly present there, it is not able to radically have an affect on the appeasement of the overall situation in Iraq, preferring management of threats and challenges rather than their solution.

That is, to some extent, understandable because of the strong counteraction of Iran, whose influence in Iraq is also great.

The last example was the halt of activities of the American Consulate in Basra. The Americans believed that increasing threats from Iran and Iranian-backed forces could harm American diplomats, despite the assurances of the Iraqi authorities that they were able to control the security of the Consulate.

Russia is so far watching where the Iranian-American confrontation will lead, but at the right time it can enter the geopolitical game, offering Baghdad a number of tempting proposals, for example, buying modern Russian weapons via credit.

Many observers believe that if Iraq does acquire the S-400 missile system from Russia, as has long been the case, it will be a psychological turning point in the new rapprochement between Iraq and Russia.

Within the meetings held in the last couple of years with Russian counterparts, a number of high-ranking Iraqi authorities repeatedly expressed their wishes to expand economic cooperation with Moscow.

There are reasons for such interest.

Historically, Russia has been a traditional partner of Iraq in many areas since the times of the Soviet Union, and this hasn't changed.

Iraq continues to be of great interest to Russia at least in two respects: as one of the leaders in the world’s oil production, as well as a paying customer of Russian weapons.

LUKOIL, Rosneft and Gazprom – the three pillars of the Russian oil sector – have long been doing business in Iraq.

As for Russian weapons, the first deliveries to Iraq began in the 60s of the last century.

In 1989, immediately after the Iran-Iraq war, the USSR concluded a number of major military contracts with Baghdad for the supply and maintenance of a range of weapons, for example, missile systems “Luna”, “Kvadrat” and others. These contracts were terminated after the Desert Storm operation in January 1991.

The new Iraqi government, whatever it may be, has no reason to ignore Russia. On the contrary, the way Russia came to the Middle East a few years ago after a long break, most likely had an effect on the Iraqi elite, many representatives of which retain presence of the Soviet Union in the region in the 70s-80s of the last century.

Russia will contribute to the strengthening of the military potential of Iraq, said Russian Deputy foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov at the ceremony of awarding him the prize for the strengthening of Russian-Iraqi dialogue, RIA Novosti reported last week.

Moscow and Baghdad are bound by strong friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation. In addition, Iraq is one of the main partners of the Russian Federation in the region, Bogdanov said.

Today Iraq is facing two prominent tasks: the post-war rehabilitation and preservation of sovereignty.

Russia stated at the international forum for the reconstruction of Iraq, held in Kuwait in February this year, that it is ready to work on major infrastructure projects there.

As far as sovereignty is concerned, Russia's position is well-known. After the failed September 2017 referendum in the Kurdish autonomy of Iraq, the Russian foreign Ministry called on the parties to develop a mutually acceptable formula for coexistence within a single Iraqi state.

At the time being, Russian influence in Iraq is not so strong in comparison with others. Also, Moscow is not in a hurry. However, it is clear that Russia is not going to leave a country like Iraq on the sidelines of its national interests.

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