Russia in bed with Iran and Syria - 2007

Russia wants to resurrect influence in Muslim world: Moscow woos Muslim world with guns, diplomatic roses as US loses ground


The huge arms deal with Algeria that Moscow announced on Friday demonstrates Russia's determination to resurrect influence in the Muslim world through weapons exports and challenges to Western-dominated diplomacy, analysts said. Flush with oil and gas revenues and buoyed by its presidency of the Group of Eight, Russia is becoming a significant player -- and competitor with the United States -- in the Middle East for the first time since the Soviet crash of 1991. The latest sign of President Vladimir Putin's drive to reestablish Russian clout was the announcement during his flying visit to Algeria on Friday of weapons sales worth 7.5 billion dollars (6.3 billion euros). Russia also agreed to cancel Algeria's Soviet-era debt. Weapons are one of Russia's few internationally competitive products. In 2005 the export agency Rosoboronexport announced its best sales for years at 6.1 billion dollars, mostly to China, India and former Soviet client states in the Muslim world and Asia.

But Moscow's simultaneous writing off of 4.7 billion dollars of debt reveals the political nature of the arms trade, analysts said. "There has never been a deal like that in the history of Russian military-industrial partnerships," the Kommersant business daily said on Saturday. It suggested that the real value of contracts might not have been more than 5.5 billion dollars. "This visit was part of Russia's general policy in the Middle East," said Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at the Carnegie Centre in Moscow. "Russia is coming back. The geopolitical strategy has changed. The rapprochment with the West is over and Russia is taking its own route." That new strategy -- kick-started in April 2005 when Putin became the first Kremlin leader to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories -- coincides with a distinct cooling of relations between Moscow and Washington. But Russia presents itself less as a competitor than an East-West middleman. As builder of Iran's sole civilian nuclear power plant, Moscow says it can help resolve Tehran's standoff with the international community over a suspected secret weapons programme. In the only compromise plan on the table, Russia would assume responsibility for Iran's uranium enrichment.

Russia also ignored Israeli and Western suspicion at the start of March to hold talks with Hamas, arguing that the militant group, which is now the ruling party in the Palestinian territories, should be engaged, not made a pariah. Another Western bugbear -- Syria -- will be allowed into Russia's diplomatic limelight this week when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem meet in Moscow. Russia has been at odds with European powers and the United States over how to ensure Syria's cooperation with a UN probe into suspicions of Syrian links to the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri. Russia wants Syrian cooperation, Lavrov said ahead of the Moscow talks, but not for the issue to be used for "political means". All these initiatives add up to a bold but risky policy that could leave Russia isolated, Malashenko warned. "It's important these initiatives bring results, because otherwise they will boomerang on Russia," he said.


Russia in bed with Iran and Syria

Gholamreza Aghazadeh left head of Iran Atomic Energy Organization and head of Russia Federal Atomic Energy Agency Alexander Rumyantsev as they sign agreement documents

Regarding the recent Wall Street Journal story titled "Oil and gas empire," by Barry Kasparov: Once again, Kasparov has provided readers with a valuable insight into present-day Russia and Vladimir Putin's transformation of Russia back into a one-party dictatorship. It is not really surprising that a Western world that is rapidly becoming a progressive secular-socialist entity doesn't seem to see the forest (democracy and freedom) for the trees. After all, isn't that what Putin and the KGB apparatchiks are succeeding in accomplishing before our eyes? Kasparov says, "Many here would like to believe Mr. Putin is ushering in a return to our Soviet superpower glory -- an illusion supported by images of our president taunting President Bush about Iraqi democracy and mocking Vice President Cheney about his hunting accident." Kasparov's assessment of Putin's relationships with Hugo Chavez, North Korea, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas makes the facts seem patently obvious. Yet, we in the West are apparantly oblivious to this unfriendly dance with our enemies. But the most recent telling and damning evidence noted by Mr. Kasparov was Putin's purposely omitting Hezbollah and Hamas from Russia's list of national and international terrorists. This clearly puts Russia in bed with Iran and Syria and 100 percent in support of Hezbollah and Hamas, their civilian-killing proxies. Aside from a comment by Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard on Fox News the other day, and a Fox News crawler the same day, I've seen no reference to this latest astounding development anywhere else, especially in the leftist media. Frankly, I don't see a great difference between Mr. Putin's objectives and those seemingly espoused by our own progressive secular-socialist -- oops -- Democratic Party. The real danger here is that Iran, Syria and their supporters may already be on a path of miscalulation.


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