The Russians are in Baghdad too!

Neither Iran nor Russia intend to resolve the humanitarian tragedy of the Syrian and Iraqi peoples

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

The Kremlin has been marching toward Syria and Iraq for months now, expedited by the West and Iran reaching a nuclear deal that ends international sanctions on the latter. Recent developments provide a clear picture of the scale of Russia’s and Iran’s military presence in Syria and Iraq.

Russia alleged that weapons shipped to Syria were military purchases previously agreed upon with the regime of President Bashar-al-Assad. It was only a few weeks before the truth surfaced, that the shipments included different specifications than those mentioned. For example, they included temporary housing units as well as equipment to expand airports. Moscow’s justification is that these are training facilities for Russian consultants.

Some two weeks ago, we found out that there was a huge number of applications submitted by the Russian military to pass through certain countries' airspace to head to Syria, implying that Moscow is shipping ammunition for the Russian army. After it was no longer possible to deny the truth, Moscow made its first confession: it was sending combat forces to help the Assad regime fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist groups.

Satellite images of Bassel al-Assad Airport in Latakia, and facilities in Tartus and Damascus, showed Sukhoi fighter aircrafts, T90 tanks, attack helicopters and a missile system. Amid surprise and tension in Washington, U.S. officials continued to naively speak of the possibility of cooperating with the Russians to fight ISIS.

Syria to Iraq

Last week, despite doubts regarding Russian intentions, the Americans presented a dangerous concession, announcing their acceptance of a Russian political solution in which Assad is president but gives up governance in the future.

Neither Iran nor Russia intend to resolve the humanitarian tragedy of the Syrian and Iraqi peoples - all they care about is strengthening Assad, who has become a mere front for Tehran, and completing their domination over Iraq

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

It then turned out that Russian intelligence opened an office in the heart of the Iraqi capital, specifically opposite the Defense Ministry in the Green Zone! The Americans were shocked, realizing that the Russians have entered Iraq as well as Syria.

To justify the betrayal of its American ally by allowing the Russians to work in American strategic areas, the Iraqi government confessed that it agreed to share intelligence information regarding ISIS with the Iranian and Russian governments.

The White House has for two years been repeating that it does not care about Syria because it does not view it as a country with strategic value, unlike Iraq. It has also said that its interest in Syria was a response to a purely humanitarian case.

This reveals that President Barack Obama has not learnt the lesson that his predecessor George W Bush learnt late, that Syria is the source of a major threat to Iraq and was behind the American defeat. Syria was the headquarters of the gathering of Al-Qaeda fighters, and of what was known as Iraqi resistance, and it became the path from which they passed to Iraq after 2004.

These years have proven that it is not possible to govern Iraq without guaranteeing Syria. The Iranians are fighting there because they know that he who governs Damascus can threaten or protect Baghdad.

The Russians did not move toward Syria then Iraq until their ally Iran signed the nuclear deal. It seems the Iranians succeeded in deceiving American negotiators by convincing them that stopping their nuclear program, which had already been struggling, was a gain that deserves all these Western concessions, including remaining silent over their military activities and interventions in Iraq and Syria.

The Russians have decided to quickly move forward and solidify their presence in Mesopotamia. Neither Iran nor Russia intend to resolve the humanitarian tragedy of the Syrian and Iraqi peoples - all they care about is strengthening Assad, who has become a mere front for Tehran, and completing their domination over Iraq.

Fighting ISIS has become a Western problem, and an umbrella to grant Iranian forces and their Afghan, Lebanese and Iraqi militias legitimacy for a military presence under the pretext of cooperating with the U.S.-led international coalition to fight terror. This paved the way for them to take over two important countries within this geopolitical struggle of the Middle East.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sept. 30, 2015.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.