Perhaps carried visit by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein to Moscow in November 2020 all traditional visits features diplomatic and monotonous, one hand, the tour which lasted few days, came official invitation earlier from his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, with accompanying delegation traditional It included the ministers of oil and trade and an official in charge of the Foreign Relations Committee in the House of Representatives, but the turbulent political atmosphere surrounding the visit made it worthy of every ounce of attention and anticipation.
At that time, the US-Iranian tension had reached its height, and it was clear that the two sides had decided to engage in the current round of confrontations between them on the territory of Iraq. It all started with the beginning of the same year, when America suddenly decided to assassinate the commander of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Qassem Soleimani while he was in Iraq. , with sporadic attempts to target the US embassy in Baghdad with the aim of forcing it to close. In turn, the Trump administration has also begun to pressure Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to reduce the influence of Shiite groups linked to Tehran in Iraqi politics.
These American pressures reached an unprecedented climax as Washington began withdrawing large numbers of employees from its embassies in Baghdad with the possibility of closing them completely, and also declaring its intention to make a significant reduction in the numbers of American forces in the country, which meant that Baghdad had to search for new allies. to meet the growing security challenges. As expected, Moscow was more than ready to play this role, as the Russian Foreign Minister was keen to confirm to his Iraqi counterpart his country’s readiness to provide Iraq with all the necessary weapons and equipment to help the Iraqi state perform its security tasks efficiently.
– Russia is ready to meet Iraq’s demands for armaments and military cooperation,
During a meeting between Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow # Fallujah_channel pic.twitter.com/14sLADMSXY
– Fallujah Channel (@fallujahtv) November 25, 2020
Lavrov’s pledges summarize the way Moscow is conducting its relations with Baghdad at the present time, as Russia is primarily active in the empty spaces left by American indecision, and positions itself as a potential alternative in issues surrounded by an atmosphere of suspicion and misunderstanding. Despite Russia’s realization that post-US invasion Iraq has become an American-Iranian playground par excellence, the old Soviet Iraq’s fantasies do not cease to play with the minds of decision-makers in the Kremlin, who aspire today to restore the old glories of Moscow in Baghdad.
Moscow and Baghdad have close relations that go back to the end of the fifties, when Abdul Karim Qasim led a coup against the Iraqi monarchy, and headed to open relations with Russia, taking advantage of its policy of support for national liberation movements against colonialism and the West. At that time, relations between the two countries acquired several dimensions, but military cooperation took center stage early on, after the two sides signed an agreement in 1967 that Iraq would supply oil to the Soviets, in return for ensuring widespread access to Eastern bloc weapons.
Relations between the two sides were further strengthened with the Baathist coup in 1969, when the two countries signed in 1972 a 15-year friendship treaty, which made Iraq able to participate in the war against Israel the following year with Soviet support, and later the Iraqis used Soviet weapons to crush the Kurdish uprising Led by Mustafa Barzani in 1975.
By that time, Iraq had become the largest buyer of Soviet military equipment in the Middle East and Moscow’s largest partner in the region. Simultaneously, Russian experts flocked in abundance to Baghdad for training and maintenance of military equipment, where they helped the Iraqi government establish several military factories, including a factory for the production of howitzers, another for the production of Kalashnikovs, in addition to a facility for the production of artillery munitions.
Despite the dominance of military cooperation on the scene of relations between the two countries, the economic dimensions were not completely absent, as the Soviets were actively involved in various sectors of the Iraqi economy, especially the oil industry, for example, Soviet institutions participated in the development of the Rumaila and Luhais oil fields and others, as they participated In the construction of a pipeline for oil derivatives between Baghdad and Basra, and thermal and hydroelectric power stations in Nasiriyah and Dokan, in addition to a pharmaceutical factory in Samarra.
Iraqi-Soviet relations maintained a great deal of stability and harmony over more than three decades, but a great storm was hit by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s decision to invade Kuwait in August 1990, when the Soviets criticized the Iraqi move and supported a United Nations resolution authorizing the use of military force to impose an embargo weapons on Iraq. In the following months, Western sanctions restricted Moscow’s ability to sell arms to its Iraqi ally, however, the two countries’ cooperation continued in the economic sphere, as Russia – the heir to the Soviet Union – continued its oil activities, and regularly supplied Baghdad with cars and railway equipment, and oversaw Russian companies are creating silos for grain in the country.
The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the forced change of the country’s ruling class forced Russia’s influence in Iraq to diminish, but Moscow has never forgotten its vested interests in Baghdad. Once the first years of the invasion passed, and the relatively new Iraqi political scene stabilized, Russia sought to exploit the catastrophic mistakes of the US invasion in order to restore its presence on the Iraqi arena. In 2008, canceled a Moscow debt owed by Iraq dating back to the Soviet era worth 12.9 billion dollars, in exchange for signing an oil deal worth 4 billion dollars. At a time when international oil companies were leaving Iraq – in whole or in part – due to the lawlessness, the Russian “Lukoil” company won one of the first oil contracts in post-war Iraq, a project to develop the “West Qurna-2” field in Basra, the official About 12% of Iraq’s oil exports.
The year 2015 was a pivotal year for Russia to regain its influence, not only in Iraq in particular, but in the entire Middle East. In that year, Moscow intervened militarily in the Syrian civil war in support of President Bashar al-Assad, and succeeded in saving his regime from the brink of collapse. Beyond its ability to preserve its most important allies in the Middle East, the military intervention in Syria has rebuilt Moscow’s reputation as a reliable foreign partner and potential kingmaker in the region.
Moscow set out to use this reputation to rebuild its defunct influence, and Iraq was at the top of the list of targets for Russian moves. Initially, Russia presented itself as an alternative supporter of the Iraqi Kurds instead of a hesitant and unreliable American ally, and began to consolidate its presence in the Kurdistan region – primarily – by pumping investments in the field of energy.
Simultaneously, the Russians set out to establish relations with the Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Baghdad, adding to these militias capabilities and skills that did not exist before, and more than that, Russia seized on the global dismay caused by the rise of the Islamic State to present itself to the Iraqi government as a reliable partner In the fight against terrorism, she succeeded in persuading it to join a quadripartite information center that included Moscow, Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran, with the aim of hunting down the Islamic State and eliminating its remnants.
In recent years, has not missed Moscow an opportunity to drive a wedge between Washington and its Iraqi partners. This was clear, especially after the United States assassinated the leader of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Qassem Soleimani, and the prominent Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, over Iraqi territory in early 2020, in a move that angered Baghdad, which considered the American action a violation of its sovereignty and a violation of the conditions for the existence of American forces on its soil, an anger that Moscow was keen to invest by reinforcing calls for the American withdrawal from Iraq on the one hand, and sending a special envoy, Ambassador Maxim Maximov, to discuss the prospects for military cooperation with the Iraqis, before sending its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov himself to take advantage of the opportunity, meeting with senior leaders Iraqis in Baghdad and Erbil.