News / Europe

Russia Seeks to Rebuild Influence in Iraq

James Brooke
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, October 10, 2012.Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, October 10, 2012.
x
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, October 10, 2012.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, October 10, 2012.
Almost one decade after American troops overthrew Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Kremlin is seeking to regain some of the influence it enjoyed in the country during the near quarter century of Saddam Hussein’s rule.

Russia’s president and prime minister rolled out the red carpet last week for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who came to Moscow with his defense and trade ministers and a large group of business leaders. The first priority was negotiating a $4 billion weapons deal, and Russian President Vladimir Putin got straight to the point.

“Iraqi specialists are familiar with our weapons systems, which are highly recommended,” Mr. Putin told the visiting Iraqi leader. “And I'm confident that we'll find a mutual understanding in these important directions, which will unquestionably increase not only returns in economic trade, but will also increase trust between the two governments.”

Alexander Golts, a military analyst, said that under Saddam Hussein, 90 percent of Iraq’s arms came from Russia, or from its predecessor state, the Soviet Union. The new weapons package is to include air cargo planes and anti-aircraft guns.
 
“Russian weapons are simpler, not the most modern,” said Golts, who edits the online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal. “They can be used by soldiers without a high degree of technological training.”

Business, or foreign policy?
 
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago, Moscow has tried to make more and more of its arms sales straight commercial transactions.

Although Iraq is rich in oil revenues, Alexei Malashenko, a regional expert for the Carnegie Moscow office, wondered if Moscow’s sales will end up being an expensive foreign policy move for Russia.

"I don't know if they will pay,” he said of the Iraqis. “In the Kremlin, some people hope that Iraq will pay for these arms."

Malashenko and other analysts in Moscow and in Washington say Baghdad is trying to diversify away from its heavy dependence on arms from the United States.

James Jeffrey, former ambassador to Iraq and to Turkey, spoke to VOA about Iraq's plans to buy $4 billion in arms from Russia.

“That would still be a very small portion of what Iraq has received from the United States, and the $12 billion of outstanding orders that it is now working through,” he said in an interview in Washington. “Plus, we have very close counter-terrorism cooperation; we have very close cooperation in the energy field."

Russian energy companies Gazprom and Lukoil are working in Iraq. President Putin urged Prime Minister Maliki to allow Russian companies to produce more oil and gas there.

In addition to trade, the high profile visit had a strong foreign policy element for Russia.

Over the last year, the Kremlin repeatedly took the losing sides in the Arab Spring - in Egypt, in Tunisia and in Libya. Now, Malashenko believes, the Kremlin hopes to rebuild influence in the Arab world, starting with Iraq.

"Maybe they hope in Moscow that, from Iraq, Russia will begin coming back to Middle East,” said Malashenko, an analyst of the Muslim world.

Bridging sectarian divide
 
In Moscow, Iraq’s prime minister repeatedly praised Russia’s policy of opposing Turkish and Sunni Arab intervention in Syria. In an interview with Russia’s Interfax news agency, he said about Syria, “Our position coincides with Russia’s position on this issue.”

This was well received in Moscow, which suffered the humiliation on Thursday of seeing Turkish fighter jets intercept a Syrian plane that was flying from Moscow to Damascus. Turkish authorities said they confiscated dual use communications equipment. Russia said it was carrying radar equipment.

But Carnegie’s Malashenko stressed that the Kremlin is careful to maintain good relations with Turkey, a historical antagonist in wars dating back to the 16th century.

"Despite special relations between Moscow and regime in Syria, despite this story with aircraft, Russia wants to keep normal relations with Turkey,” he said.

Some analysts speculated that Russia is tilting toward a “Shi'ite crescent” - a loose alliance that would stretch from the Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Syria, Iraq and Iran. Facing this group would be a "Sunni alliance," stretching from Turkey to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies.

Malashenko and others said the weak links to the formation of such a “crescent” are the embattled Assad government in Syria, and the mistrust between Shi'ite Arabs in the Middle East and Shi'ite Persians in Iran.

For now, Russia’s goal is to rebuild influence in Iraq, a key Arab nation. It is avoiding overly committing itself to one side in the region’s growing sectarian divide.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
October 15, 2012 8:49 PM
It’s laughable when Mr Golts admitted that once victorious Russian weapons became “not most modern” as a euphemism to disastrous attitude of the regime to science, technology, industry and education. Mr Putin plunged Russia into political stagnation bordering with clinical death but tries to compensate in highly controversial deals by passing between Scilla and Charybdis (of sectarian divide).


by: Damon P from: London
October 15, 2012 4:20 PM
It seemed that Turkey has came off a little desperate in grounding Syrian airplane, while Iran is using Iraqi airspace to ship weapons to Syria.


by: Haroon from: Afghanistan
October 15, 2012 2:38 PM
the Afghan refugees in outside of Afghanistan wished that ISAF. NATO and American troops could bring peace and stop fighting in Afghanistan from 2002 to yet. but after eleven years three Taliban can ran-out 100 ISAF, NATO and American troops into their bases.

American lost their 2,000 troops in Afghanistan during 11 years, their yelling and screaming covered all around the world. when Russia left 12,864 troops deaths and 14,390 injured and approximately 29,700 mad in 14 years war. they never yelled and screamed to the world because they were invited by Tarakey and Hafizullah Ameen. America and NATO were invited and came by shoulders of Karzai. well, I pray for Iraq people that they find their way. like other Russia's allies


by: Haroon from: Afghanistan
October 15, 2012 2:12 PM
Luck to Iraqi leader at least they have knowledge that they close their relation tightly with a powerful country in the world. I am sure Russia will raise Iraq on high level of success as Russia did for Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Syria, Belarus and other 100 countries in the world that no powers are comparable with them. the best policy of Russia is equalization of people. you cannot find a rich people beside of poor people. from President to drive they have one breakfast, lunch and dinner.

if President eat bread with tea you can see driver also have bread with tea. if the driver has rice with meat the president has rice with meat too. it is called Russia policy in it's allies countries. not like American allies countries one person is dying from starving another is dying by more eating. Shame on American I am not American to eat poison


by: Nazabayev from: Ukraine
October 15, 2012 12:33 PM
listen Turkies... this is all designed to really hurt you... Russians just do not like you... intensely... and now, with your Islamic bs you had given them a pretext to screw you with a lot of pain... enjoy!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid