Perhaps, the simplest answer to this question is that unlike the United States, Russia has made the decision to give a positive response to [Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri Al-Maliki’s call for help in fighting the ISIS, while Washington is still either dealing with its own uncertainties and strategic assessments, or is pursuing goals other than helping Iraq in fighting terrorism.
Nonetheless there are few points which can be discussed here to see why Russia has welcomed Maliki’s call for help in his fight with the ISIS.
Firstly, Russia is much more serious in fighting terrorism than the United States because the Americans apply double standards to fighting terrorism across the world. Russia, as such, has been, and still is, in need of a coherent and firm policy against terrorism. Moscow is greatly concerned about the spread of terrorism in the region because the spread of terrorism, especially activities of extremist Islamist forces, has greatly increased vulnerability of Russia in its autonomous region of Dagestan. Proofs to uphold this claim include last year’s terrorist bomb attacks in the city of Volgograd and on the eve of the Winter Olympics, which led to escalation of tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, considering conditions that Russia has been facing in Dagestan and in view of the fact that a number of leaders and main figures of the ISIS come from this region as well as from Caucasus region, it is quite natural for Russia to identify with and be scared of what is going on in Syria or Iraq.
Secondly, Russia basically believes that Sunni extremism as well as all forms of Islamic, Wahhabi and Takfiri radicalism are enemies of human civilization and destructive. Moscow has no doubt that if such political currents manage to have their own historical and geographical domain, gain political support and survive the test of time, they will pose much more serious threats than any time before to the interests of this country. On the other hand, historical experience of Russians, especially in Afghanistan and Chechnya has taught them that all forms of Sunni religious fundamentalism and radicalism, including Al-Qaeda, Taliban or the present-day ISIS, is one way or another in close contacts with the Western, Arab and Israeli intelligence services. Therefore, at any given time, Russia and its interests will be exposed to the dire threat of these currents. As a result, it would be much better if this formidable enemy is annihilated outside the Russian borders with other countries having to pay the price.
Thirdly, although in view of the aforesaid conditions Russia will be benefitted by offering its help to the central government of Iraq in its faceoff with the ISIS militants, it will be also able to use this as an excuse to return to one of its important and old spheres of military and economic influence which Russia had lost years ago. Like Syria, Iraq was one of the countries in the Middle East whose governments were inclined toward the former Soviet Union. As a result, most of the military and economic infrastructure in these countries had been adapted to structures that prevailed in the former Soviet Union and subsequently in Russia. Following the invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003 and during the past 10 years, the Americans spared no effort to totally change that infrastructure and make the country completely dependent on the American industries and products. The sudden and rapid advance of the ISIS in Iraq and the United States’ failure or unwillingness to send necessary military equipment to help the central government in its fight with this group have provided Russia with a new opportunity. By taking advantage of this opportunity, Moscow can not only pursue its ideological and political goals in fighting terrorism, but has been also trying to once more find a secure foothold in Iraq under the pretext of helping the central government in Baghdad.
Fourthly, the Iraqi army is more comfortable and better experienced in using Russian structures as well as combat equipment. Since the core of the Iraqi army has not changed a lot, they are still more comfortable with the Russian equipment. In spite of all their promises to the government and army of Iraq for training their forces, the Americans did not fulfill those promises in the best way they could. For years, they have been saying that Washington is going to provide the Iraqi army with F-16 fighter jets as well as Apache helicopters. However, these promises have not been met so far. On the opposite, only one week after Russia announced its decision to send military equipment for the Iraqi army, Moscow delivered ten Sukhoi fighters jets and several helicopter gunships to the government of Iraq.
Fifthly, apart from other benefits that Russians reap through helping Iraq, they have also an eye on the profits resulting from selling arms to the government in Baghdad. Russia is in conditions when it is badly in need of financial resources and it is sure to sign contracts with the Iraqi government for any services that it provides the Arab country and will be paid for those services. From this viewpoint Russia’s help to Iraq seems to be more meaningful.
Sixthly, another goal that Russians pursue in Iraq is to show off before the world Russia’s maneuvering power and its ability to take rapid action in contrast to weakness and dawdling by the Americans. In other words, by showing rapid reaction to the call for help from the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, the Russians are trying to prove that when it comes to fighting terrorism, they are more pragmatic than the Americans and are more agile and capable in practice compared to their American counterparts. This issue combined with the pressure that the Arab countries have been putting on Obama because of his inability to resolve the crisis in Syria in their favor, can further undermine Obama’s standing more than before both inside the United States and at international level.
Seventhly, by appearing proactive in Iraq, the Russians are trying to relay two different messages to their friends and enemies. One the one hand, they want to send a heart-warming message to the allies of Russia in the region, especially to ethnic Russians in Ukraine, giving them hope that Moscow is a very reliable source of support and they can reckon on Moscow’s help in time of need. On the other hand, they send a warning message to opponents of Russia and those players that aim to disturb security and stability in the region by telling them that Russia will by no means compromise on the spread of terrorism that has its roots in Sunni fundamentalism and radicalism.
More By Mohammad Reza Noroozpoor:
*What Brought Erdogan to His Current Predicament?: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/What-Brought-Erdogan-to-His-Current-Predicament-.htm
*Why Turkey Backed Down from Past Positions on Syria?: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Why-Turkey-Backed-Down-from-Past-Positions-on-Syria-.htm
Editor of International Section of Khabaronline News Website
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