When, a little while ago, the author of this article repeatedly claimed in his previous publications that, U.S. supremacy in the Middle East is over, and that as a whole the era of American dominance in the world is coming to an end, one only needs to look at the real facts as confirmation of this. And it has now come to pass; and in the very country Washington in 2003 began “reshaping” the Arab world through war and Arab “revolutions”, most notably in Iraq. The helplessness of the U.S. in the face of the ISIS offensive against the al-Maliki government has inspired the nonsense coming from the White House with regards to Ukraine, and the powerful financial injections of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are being offset by the growing presence in the region of Russia, Iran and as well, a renewed role for Syria. Moscow and Tehran are supplying military aid to Baghdad, delivering weaponry, including powerful Russian multipurpose aircraft. In addition, there are elite units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the country in order to protect Shiite shrines, while the Syrian Air Force is striking at positions held by the militants in north-western Iraq, doing that which the Iraqi government requested of Washington, but were refused.
Naturally, the delivery of the first of five Su-25s from Russia to Iraq provoked a strong reaction from world and Arab media circles. But, besides the admiration for Russia’s quick response to a request from Baghdad and growing frustration over the slowness of Washington to act, the media also discusses the lingering dissatisfaction on the part of Iraqis towards Washington in delaying the delivering of 36 American F-16 fighter jets which have been on order for some time. Incidentally, June 5 at a U.S. base in Texas, the Americans with much pomp and ceremony officially handed over the first F-16 to Iraqis. But beyond this base in Texas the first aircraft has yet to be moved; it remains in the U.S. today. The Prime Minister of Iraq has stated that, delivery has become a “long and slow road”. The Pentagon was forced to make excuses, noting that the delivery is going according to plan and that aircraft will begin arriving this fall, as was negotiated. As for the delivery of Russian aircraft, it is expected that soon their numbers in Iraq will be brought up to 12 Su-25s and 2 Su-24s. And this is real and significant aid to the government of al-Maliki, who Obama has betrayed, leaving it on its own to face an invasion by armed extremists. Older aircraft were in quick order fitted with new engines. An Iraqi Air Force Commander clarified that the aircraft arrived with Russian experts who will in three or four days leave Iraq, as there are a sufficient number of pilots and maintenance personnel already in Iraq. There are officers remaining who gained experienced in flying the Su-25 during the Iran-Iraq war. It is clear that these aircraft will be urgently used against ISIS militants who, just three days ago, proclaimed a Caliphate on Iraqi and Syrian territory. But even if they don’t have enough of their own pilots, the Iraqis are prepared to hire pilots from Russia, Belarus and Iran; as we are not talking about mercenaries here, but providing assistance to the legitimate authorities of another state in the struggle against international terrorism, the mastermind of which is the United States and the policies it employs not only in the Middle East, but in Ukraine as well, where it uses mercenaries of the businessman Kolomoiskyi and other activists of the “Right Sector” in terrorizing the peaceful, civilian population in the South-East of the country.
So, in Iraq a rather unique situation has been created whereby U.S. military and Special Forces instructors may work elbow to elbow with the Russian pilots and officers of the Iranian Al-Quds, a military group which was established to assist Hezbollah and bring about the liberation of Jerusalem from Israel. In addition, at the Al-Rashid airbase near Baghdad the Iranians have already established their command post, placed electronic intelligence unit and from which are carrying out flights of their own reconnaissance drones. This is the first former U.S. base which has passed into Iranian hands. In addition, the Iranians are concentrating their airpower on their bases in western Iran for attacks on ISIS positions, and according to some reports, Iran has already made its first airstrike on targets in Baiji during the battle for the oil refining.
Actually, they are not alone in operating in the skies above Iraq. According to the Israeli source, DEBKAfile, Jordanian jets on June 23 carried out strikes against a column of ISIS armored vehicles along the Iraqi-Jordanian border. ISIS was attempting to cut the transport and trade corridor between Iraq and Jordan, as part of its plan features a massive invasion of militants in to Jordan and has already forced Jordan to call up army reservists.
The Syrians as well are bombing ISIS positions on the territory of Iraq. Officials from the governor’s office of Anbar province in Iraq, an area that is up to 90% under militant control, stated that, on June 24 Syrian aircraft carried out a series of air strikes on three districts of the province, killing 57 militants and injuring 120. True, the Syrian authorities have denied involvement of its aircraft over the territory of Iraq and argue that they are striking at targets within its own territory. And finally, it may be noted that in addition to the above-mentioned forces, there is also Turkey who is regularly carrying out strikes in northern Iraq against Kurdish PKK rebels in the mountains.
As it has become known, amid the rout of government troops in the region, the decision regarding these airstrikes was made by al-Assad at the request of al-Maliki as a response to a direct threat posed to Baghdad by the militants and a fear that the militants would again shift its attention towards Syria in order to implement its concept of a Caliphate. Countries like Iraq and Syria who have interests in combating the advancement of the militants include Russia and Iran, who do not like the growing power of the extremists and terrorists; these groups have grown with the support of the Wahhabi monarchy in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and with the tacit approval of Washington. This is perceived as a threat as it then can seek to spread to Russia’s North Caucasus region as well as to adjacent areas, including areas populated by ethnic Arabs in the Iranian provinces along the Persian Gulf. Besides that, Syria and Iraq pursue their own strategy, which aims to force the international community to accept them for who they really are: the last Arab stronghold in the way of radical Islam in the region. But instead of being grateful for that, the West for some reason is preoccupied with Ukraine, where the U.S. is trying to strike at Russia, attempting to undermine Russia’s role in Europe, primarily within the more sensitive export of hydrocarbons.
In any event, Nouri al-Maliki was in a difficult situation, and therefore was willing to accept any appearance of assistance or support, either from Russia, Iran or Syria. His army laid down their weapons and fled, the Americans did not intervene, the Kurds took full advantage of the situation in staking their claim to independence, Shiite armed groups are trying dearly to sell him their support and now everybody it seems are prepared for the inevitable crash. For this reason al-Malaki was forced to ask for help from even those who the U.S. considers to be their worst enemy. “A friend in need is a friend indeed”, as the Russian saying goes. This is what happened in Iraq.
American diplomacy is clearly faced with a difficult challenge. Little is heard from the United States when Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey openly interfere in the events in Syria and Iraq and President Obama allocates 500 million USD for Syrian opposition. Or when Libya is thrown into bloody anarchy, it sticks to its position, and it will become more complicated as little by little the situation unravels into regional chaos and a victory march of radical Islamists who have always been the sworn enemies of the West and the United States.
Unfortunately, the mistakes of Nouri al-Maliki have made Iraq a weak link in the “Shiite Crescent” that stretches from Tehran to southern Lebanon through Baghdad and Damascus. Iran cannot leave Iraq to the Sunni extremists, but nor can they actively intervene too much without a minimum consensus on the international scene. Therefore, the appearance in Iraq of Russian combat aircraft is a benefit not only to Baghdad, but to Tehran as well.
It is hoped that such a turn of events in Iraq will make Americans and Europeans rethink their approach not only to Syria, but also to Ukraine and to go on a painful review of its outdated dogmas and mothballed alliances.
Alexander Orlov, political scientist, expert in Oriental Studies, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.