Russia is considering Iraq’s request for arms supplies. The statement was made by a Russian official during the IDEX-2017 arms exhibition in Aby Dhabi. Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) Deputy Director Alexei Frolkin said that Russian-Iraqi military technical cooperation “is developing quite effectively.” According to him, Russia is rendering significant military assistance to Iraq, which is fighting Islamic State (IS) militants.
On January 30, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow did not rule out the possibility of assistance to Iraq in the fight against the IS terrorist group if Baghdad shows such an interest. The statements on arms supplies come amid the ongoingoperation to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul, which began in October, 2016. Iraqi troops have managed to advance in the eastern part of the city, but the western part – on the right bank of the Tigris River – remains under militants’ control.
Russiaand Iraq have a history of successful military cooperation. In October 2012, Iraq signed a $4.2 billion deal to include a combination of 43 Mi-35 (28) and Mi-28NE (15) attack helicopters, plus 42-50 Pantsir-S1 combined short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapons systems. The contract was fulfilled last October as the attack helicopters and anti-aircraft systems had been delivered to the Iraqi military.
The Iraqi armed forces inventory also includes Russia-produced TOS–1ABuratino heavy flame throwers, Grad truck-mounted 122mm multiple rocket launchers, 152mm MSTA howitzers, Su-25 attack planes and armored vehicles.
According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia-made weapons are widely used in the battle for Mosul.TOS-1A heavy flamethrower system is a 220mm 24-barrel multiple rocket launcher and thermobaric weapon mounted on a T-72 tank chassis. It is designed for defeating enemy personnel in fortifications, in open country, and in lightly armored vehicles and transport. In addition to traditional incendiary rockets, it can also fire thermobaric rockets. When fired, the rockets disperse a cloud of flammable liquid into the air around the target, and then ignite it. The explosion is significantly longer and the shockwave is much stronger than a conventional warhead. All the oxygen in the near vicinity is also consumed, creating a partial vacuum. It is a formidable weapon to strike terrorists hidden in bunkers and caves, like in Mosul, for instance. A full salvo of the system’s 24 rockets will make a rectangle 200 meters by 400 meters to incinerate more than eight city blocks.
The Wall Street Journal reported in December that a Russian Kornet anti-tank guided missile destroyed 120 IS truck bombs in Iraq. Reportedly, it obliterated a US-made Abrams tank. The Kornet can defeat reactivearmorand penetratesteel armorup to one meter deep.
Iraqi Mi–28 and Mi-35 effectively launch attacks against IS positions in Mosul.
The military cooperation with Iraq – the country engaged in fierce fight against the IS – is part of a larger process.
Moscowis the key player in the Astana process aimed at achieving peace in Syria. It is expanding its naval base in Tartus as well as a new air base near Latakia, giving it a large, permanent military foothold to project power.
Turkey, a NATO member, is in talks with Russia regarding the purchase of advanced S-400long-range air defense missile systems. The parties are studying the prospects for boosting military cooperation in all areas, including procurement deals in electronic systems, ammunitions and missile technology. The related issues were discussed during the visit of General Hulusi Akar, the head of the Turkish armed forces’ General Staff, to Moscow last November.Moscowand Ankara are engaged in implementation of the ambitious Turkish Stream gas project.Turkeyhas even mentioned the possibility of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Political forces in Libya have approached Russia for help. In January Eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar visited Russia aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov on patrol in the Mediterranean.
The Russian-Egyptian relationship has flourished recently, including intensive military cooperation.
Moscowenjoys close ties with Tehran, cooperating in Syria. Iran has recently boosted its anti-aircraft capabilities after receiving Russian S-300 air defense systems.
Russiaand Jordan cooperate in the anti-terrorist effort.
Russiaand Israel set a good example of avoiding conflicts and incidents: both countries do not interfere with each other’s activities in Syria.
Algeriais strengthening ties with Moscow. It has recently purchased 14 Su-30MKA fighters and 40 Mi-28 attack helicopters. Other contracts may follow as the country is facing a terrorist threat to make it strengthen its borders.
Moroccoand Tunisia are interested in strengthening its military capabilities with Russian weapons.
The military cooperation encompasses the Persian Gulf. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Qatar’s State Minister for Defense Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah signed a military cooperation agreement last September on the sidelines of the Army-2016 international military-technical forum in Kubinka near Moscow.
The success of the military operation, as well as Moscow’s staunch support of the ally in Damascus, boosts its clout in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Moscow has become an important partner for regional powers regardless of their opposing interests.
Russia is back to the region as a major actor. It has turned the tide of the Syrian conflict to take control of the peace process. It has built a close relationship with Turkey, including joint military activities in Al Bab. It develops strategic relationship with Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and other countries, including Israel. According to Newsweek, over the past two years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has received the leaders of Middle Eastern states 25 times – five more than former US President Barack Obama, according to a Newsweek analysis of presidential meetings.
Russian military effort in MENA is gaining ground. High effectiveness of Russian weapons in the Syrian boosts the customer demand and, consequently, political clout. The military operation in Syria has greatly raised its regional profile. It prevented Islamic extremists from turning the country into a part of “caliphate” to encourage their supporters and sympathizers across the Muslim world.
Moscow is perceived as a pragmatic, savvy, no-nonsense player able to weigh in on regional matters by both diplomatic and military means. New alliances emerge and old friendships are revived to involve the countries long regarded as being within the Western sphere of influence. The political landscape of the region is going through fundamental changes, with Russia greatly influencing the process.