Russian Flights Over Iraq and Iran Escalate Tension With U.S.Posted: September 14, 2015 Filed under: Global, Russia, War Room | Tags: Bashar al-Assad, Iran, Iraq, Islamic state, John Kerry, Middle East, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Russia), Moscow, President of Syria, Russian Armed Forces, Sergey Lavrov, Syria, United States Department of State Leave a comment
WASHINGTON — Russia is using an air corridor over Iraq and Iran to fly military equipment and personnel to a new air hub in Syria, openly defying American efforts to block the shipments and significantly increasing tensions with Washington.
“Since Maliki relinquished the premiership, power and authority in Iraq have become increasingly diffused with various players now exercising unilateral power over the use of force.”
American officials disclosed Sunday that at least seven giant Russian Condor transport planes had taken off from a base in southern Russia during the past week to ferry equipment to Syria, all passing through Iranian and Iraqi airspace.
“Neutrality is the best Washington can hope for in Baghdad. Iraq is not a dictatorial state like many of the U.S. allies in the Middle East. Iraq is still a fragile state whose leaders are exposed to politics.”
Their destination was an airfield south of Latakia, Syria, which could become the most significant new Russian military foothold in the Middle East in decades, American officials said.
“In the discourse of Iraqi politics, forcing Abadi to side with the U.S. against Assad is like realigning him with the Sunni axis against the Shia one.”
— Ramzy Mardini, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, a research group in Washington
The Obama administration initially hoped it had hampered the Russian effort to move military equipment and personnel into Syria when Bulgaria, a NATO member, announced it would close its airspace to the flights. But Russia quickly began channeling its flights over Iraq and Iran, which Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said on Sunday would continue despite American objections.
[Read the full story here, at The New York Times]
“There were military supplies, they are ongoing, and they will continue,” Mr. Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. “They are inevitably accompanied by Russian specialists, who help to adjust the equipment, to train Syrian personnel how to use this weaponry.”
“There were military supplies, they are ongoing, and they will continue. They are inevitably accompanied by Russian specialists, who help to adjust the equipment, to train Syrian personnel how to use this weaponry.”
— Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister
Moscow’s military buildup in Syria, where the Kremlin has been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in a four-and-a-half-year civil war, adds a new friction point in its relations with the United States. The actions also lay bare another major policy challenge for the United States: how to encourage Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq, who came to power with the blessing of the United States but is still trying to establish his authority, to block the Russian flights.
American diplomats raised the issue with the Iraqi government on Sept. 5, hoping that the Iraqis would follow Bulgaria’s example and declare their airspace off limits to the Russian transport planes.
The Iraqis responded that they would look into the matter, said an American official who declined to be identified because he was talking about diplomatic communications. But more than a week later, the Iraqis had yet to take action.
A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister declined to comment on Sunday, asserting that he had no information about the Russian flights or the United States’ concerns about them.
Two years ago, American officials confronted Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, Mr. Abadi’s predecessor, when Iraq allowed Iran to fly arms, ammunition and other equipment to Syria through its airspace. In March 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters…(read more)
Source: The New York Times
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