The US Congress is plotting one more anti-Russian campaign. This time the congressmen are going to ask their president for more anti-Russian sanctions because of Russia’s plans to supply S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. According to the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, this may become a destabilizing factor in the Middle East.
The main cause of the congressmen’s concern is the Russian president’s Apr 13 decree to resume the contract to supply Iran with S-300 systems or their upgraded models, Antey-2500s. The contract was signed in 2007 following the Lausanne framework nuclear deal with Iran. In their letter to President Obama, Republican congressman Ed Royce and Democrat congressman Eliot Engel say that the supplies will curb the efforts to prevent Iran from creating own nuclear weapon. The congressmen warn that the supplies will make Iran stronger and more dangerous. And so, they urge Obama to use the existing sanctions to prevent the supplies.
During a press conference on Apr 17, Obama admitted that the UN Security Council’s sanctions did not prohibit Russia to sell defense weapons to Iran. But the congressmen insist that even though the sanctions may have no such ban, the US laws allow the US president to apply sanctions in response to supplies of “destabilizing” weapons. This means that Royce and Eliot suggest applying new sanctions if Russia sells S-300 systems to Iran.
More and more people in the US Congress appear to be unwilling to see US-Iranian disputes settled or US-Russian relations improved. Recently, the congressmen approved a bill allowing them to discuss and to vote on any nuclear deal with Iran. The process for lifting the anti-Iranian sanctions has been suspended until the Congress supports or rejects the final nuclear deal with Iran.
The same is happening with respect to Russia. Since 2014, the key weapons against Russia have been “sanctions,” “restrictions” and “isolation.” Now the Americans are going to add one more term – “destabilizing weapon.”
This will not be easy though as being the biggest supplier of arms in the region, the Americans have never been scrupulous here. The only thing they cared was keeping balance between Israel and its Arab neighbors. While actively delivering weapons to Israel, they did all they could to curb similar deliveries to its potential enemies. Today things have changed a bit and now the Americans may become softer with respect to some of its Middle East allies. During the Camp-David summit on May 16, they said that they were ready to ease arms sales for the Gulf nations. Shortly, a delegation of experts will visit the region in order to discuss the details.
It is not the first time the Americans are using the “destabilizing” term with respect to Russia. When in Israel in May 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian S-300 systems a “destabilizing factor” in the Middle East. He said that air defense systems from Russia and missiles from Iran and some other countries were destabilizing for the region and that the US was committed to solve that problem for the sake of Israel’s and the whole region’s security.
In Mar 2012, 17 US congressmen called on Pentagon to stop cooperation with Rosoboronexport because the Russians continued supplying arms to Syria. In their letter to US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, they said that the Russian company had sold Syria weapons worth $1bn and had signed a new contract for supplying 36 Yak-130s.
On Mar 2 2012, US Department of State’s Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the United States had never sold weapons to Syria and urged Russia to be sensible and to abstain from such deals as that was “fuelling the fire.” A few days later the abovementioned 17 congressmen called Rosoboronexport an accomplice in the crimes of the Syrian regime.
“Fuelling the fire” sounded as a Freudian slip as it was exactly what the Americans did at Maidan.
Washington’s concerns about Russian arms deliveries to Syria were clear: according to SIPRI, in 2007-2011 Syria was one of the key buyers of arms in the region with Russia being the key supplier (78%) against just 17% from Belarus and 5% from Iran. This cannot but worry the Americans, who are expecting new military contracts from the new wave of tension in the region.
The New York Times reported that the Saudis used Boeing’s F-15 planes for bombarding Yemen, while UAE pilots used Lockheed Martin’s F-15 for bombarding Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Very soon the UAE is expected to order Predators from General Atomics.
Formerly, the Americans were against active arms deliveries to the Gulf nations because of their deals with the Israelis. Now that Israel and the Gulf are in one and the same anti-Iranian bloc, the United States is reviewing its former approaches. In an interview to NYT, US Middle East expert Anthony Cordesman said that even supplies of F-35 planes would not surprise him any more. This prospect has become even more realistic now that the Russians have decided to resume S-300 deliveries to Iran.
By using the “destabilizing” terms with respect to Russia, the United States is defending its own self. In fact, it is trying to avoid similar charges and to put this label on Russia. Any delivery of shock weapons is potentially dangerous, but while slating the Russians for their arms deliveries to legal authorities in Syria and Iran, the Americans are actively delivering arms to suspicious recipients like the “moderate” Syrian opposition. But the point is that US weapons are used not only by moderate oppositionists. Often left by Iraqi troops somewhere in battlefields, those weapons are picked and actively used by the ISIS, while Textron Systems’ internationally prohibited CBU-105 cluster bombs are being used by the Saudis against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Talking of Yemen, the US congressmen should keep in mind that Russia has shown a very balanced approach to the conflict in Yemen. It was so balanced that even the unfriendly Saudis pointed it out. During his Apr 20 phone talk with President Putin, King Salman thanked Russia for deciding to abstain from voting on the UN Security Council’s resolution banning arms deliveries to Shia rebels in Yemen.
Earlier, Arab News quoted Saudi Defense Minister, Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud as thanking Russian Ambassador to Riyadh Oleg Ozerov for Russia’s decision. According to Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, this resolution must not be used for escalating the conflict in Yemen. He notes that some of Russia’s proposals were ignored. Particularly, the Russians insisted on banning sale of arms to all parties to the Yemen conflict. But as far as we understand, the US and its partners seek to cram the region with cluster bombs and other shock weapons. And whenever it comes to the military interests of the Americans, the French or other major arms suppliers, they are presented as “peacekeepers” rather than “destabilizers.”
All this talk about “destabilizing” arms supplies from Russia is part of the foreign political propaganda the United States uses to cover its own mistakes. Propaganda alone is not a policy but a good ground for the Americans to push their interests and to distract the world community’s attention from certain suspicious “files” existing in its Middle East folder.