Tags: russia | oil | iraq

Russia's Role in an Unstable Middle East

Tuesday, 06 May 2008 03:40 PM

By Alexandr Nemets

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Out-of-control oil prices have dealt a crushing blow to the American economy, stressing the budgets of millions of American families. Crude prices currently hover at $120 per barrel, with even higher prices possible.

While the media points the finger primarily at the growing oil thirst of China, India and Brazil, it is hard to support this view: In 2007, China’s net import of oil and oil products hovered around 5 percent of total world oil consumption.

One doesn’t have to look further than the destabilized Middle East for the source of the world’s oil woes.

Terrorists in the Middle East are exuberant over any military or diplomatic failure of U.S. policy — whether in Iraq or Palestine or Lebanon. The reaction is instant — oil prices skyrocket.

The vicious cycle continues as billions of oil dollars fill Iran and other terrorist nations’ coffers; which is then utilized for new weapon purchasing, keeping it all in the terrorist family.

Terrorist regimes do not have a monopoly on the blame. Russia covertly supplies Iraqi terrorists, and to a lesser degree Syrian forces, with sophisticated weaponry of various kinds via Iranian and Syrian channels — of course, all at a huge profit.

This chain in turn has further repercussions: In July-August 2006, Israeli forces arguably lost the second south Lebanon war to Hezbollah guerilla forces.

Why?

Hezbollah troops managed to prevail, for the first time in several decades, over Israeli forces primarily because they used thousands of portable missiles and RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) of Russian origin.

They included Kornet anti-tank RPGs (also usable as anti-helicopter missiles), Vampir RPGs, Metis anti-tank missiles, etc. This weaponry inflicted sensitive loses to Israeli tank and helicopter units.

These weapons were purchased by the Syrian army between 2000 and 2005 and ended in the hands of Hezbollah. Syrian purchases have been financed mostly by Tehran.

Russian and Syrian experts, during 2005 and first half 2006, trained Hezbollah fighters in guerilla warfare, communications systems, intelligence, and surveillance. Moreover, Russian and Syrian experts provided support to Hezbollah units during the south Lebanon war itself.

More than any single event, this war showed the rise of Russian influence in Middle East and the fading of American influence in this key region.

As a direct result of south Lebanon war, world market oil prices leaped from the previous peak of $70 per barrel to $78 per barrel.

Moscow’s influence doesn’t end there. In 2003-2006, Russia backed Iraqi Shiite guerillas — and other Iraqi guerillas and Middle Eastern anti-American and anti-Western “non-state actors” — with the weapons and support for the purpose of attacking American troops and, eventually, undermining U.S. influence and positions all over Middle East.

Syria and Iran, two major consumers of Russian weaponry in the Middle East — acted as middlemen between Moscow and Iraqi guerillas.

Undoubtedly, Moscow should share responsibility for the inspiration and expansion of Iraqi guerilla war conflict and other Middle Eastern conflicts.

Maybe it is time for Russia to own up to its share in American troops losses and financial losses in Iraqi guerilla war.

How did this change come about? The first months of 2007 brought the new deterioration of Moscow relations with Washington and entire West.

In April 2007 Iran acquired Russian-made air defense and anti-tank systems aimed to repel a possible U.S. attack. This included a state-of-the-art missile system designed to engage aerial targets and an advanced system designed to strike tank columns at long range and destroy bunkers.

In the case of a U.S.-Iranian conflict, these two systems will effectively support and supplement the delivered already Russian air-defense missile system TOR M1 to protect nuclear and other strategic sites against missile attack, including cruise missiles.

In May-June 2007, Syria held talks with Russia about purchasing the same systems. In early 2007, Syria purchased from Russia RPGs and portable missiles, several modern fighters among other weaponry. Tehran was pivotal in this purchase and transferred more than $700 million to Moscow.

Russia works clandestinely behind the scenes, effectively disrupting Middle East affairs and destabilizing U.S. relationships in the region.

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