At the beginning of February, several significant events occurred in the Middle Eastern direction of Russian foreign policy.
On Feb. 2 and 3, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spent two days in Oman while touring the Middle East. One of many things discussed in Oman was the necessity for an agreement of positions within the international group supporting Syria.
Precisely because of Muscat, Lavrov commented on the suspension of negotiations in Geneva on the settlement of the Syrian conflict. The suspension is due to a unilateral refusal to accept in these talks the participation of the Higher Committee on negotiations of the Syrian opposition, formed with an active role for Riyadh.
On Feb. 8, the king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, visited Sochi to negotiate with Russian leaders. Many regarded this visit as tacit support from Manama for Russian forces in Syria.
In spite of the modest indicators by population and territory, thanks to its own geographic position and religious composition, the Kingdom of Bahrain plays a significant role in Middle Eastern geopolitics.
On the one hand, it is an island state, the smallest Arab country, situated between the Wahhabi monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, across the Persian Strait from Iran. On the other hand, despite the fact that power in the kingdom is in the hands of the Sunni minority, 70-85 percent of the island’s population professes to be Shiite.
The very same day, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Finance Mohammad Khazaee arrived in Moscow to sign contracts concerning the allocation of multibillion dollar investments by Russia in the Iranian economy.
Here, of course, it should be noted that we are talking about so-called associated loans — namely, the allocated funds will go to Iranian infrastructure projects, which are projected to be implemented with the help of Russian companies and specialists. In particular, it is known that part of the funds allocated by Russia will go to the purchase by Iran of products from the Russian company “Uralvagonzavod.”
A similar practice is characteristic of China, which willingly opens credit lines for foreign states under the guarantee of involvement of the allocated funds with Chinese production and manpower.
The intensification of economic cooperation between Moscow and Tehran against the background of the repeal of anti-Iranian sanctions appears completely predictable. What is much more curious is the fact that Mohammad Khazaee’s visit preceded the journey to Moscow of the Iranian president of the Center for Strategic Research, Ali Velayati, who is a part-time adviser of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and a “special representative” of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
It is known that Velayati lead the country’s foreign policy department from 1981 through 1997, and in 2013, he even campaigned to be the head of the Islamic Republic.
The political heavyweight’s status allowed him to get a personal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and conduct meetings with the presidential adviser responsible for the power unit, Yuri Ushakovy, and secretary of the Security Council of Russia, former director of the FSB (Federal Security Service), Nikolai Patrushev.
The level and nature of the meetings indicates that the negotiations are not limited to economic issues. Furthermore, after such a productive visit from Velayati to Moscow, one may already confirm with a high degree of certainty that the predictions of Western experts about the spread of Iranian foreign policy to the West rather turned out to be an aspiration to pass the desirable for real.
Finally on Feb. 10, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin spent a two day work trip in Iraq, supervising the military-industrial complex, which is also important.
In particular, it is known that Rogozin met with President Fuad Masum, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri, representatives of Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni communities in the country, respectively.
According to official correspondence, the parties discussed economic cooperation, the situation in Syria, and also the fight with terrorism. That is — against the background of growing anti-Russian rhetoric, accompanied by unsubstantiated accusations about Russia from the West, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — Moscow, not paying special attention to the pro-American coalition’s mass hysteria, is successively strengthening its own positions.
Along with the strikes of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS), Russia has started implementing another special operation in the Middle East — a large-scale diplomatic campaign directed at the settlement of the Syrian conflict and the struggle with terrorism. In this context, the information center for the exchange of intelligence between Russia, Syria, Iran and Iraq, created in Baghdad on Moscow’s initiative, goes beyond the strictly military dimension and prefigures the future regional international organization for security and counterterrorism.
Russia’s participation in the settlement of the Syrian conflict is acquiring a fundamentally new significance. The U.S. monopoly in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the Sunni monarchy, is being challenged. There is a process in the Middle East forming the contours of Shiite states — Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
One of the main initiators of this process, it could be considered, is Russia, which made the decision to conduct air operations in Syria. Much of the future of the Middle East depends on the outcome of the Syrian conflict.
Thus, the political attacks against Russia from American officials and their satellites in Europe and the Gulf countries are directly proportional to the Syrian army’s military victories, supported by the Russian VKS, and in their own way are affirmations of the effectiveness of Russia’s strategy in the Middle East.
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