Posted on Jan 13, 2020
The shooting down of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752, a tragedy which occurred in the context of rising tensions in the Middle East, and indeed the destabilisation of Europe and growing Moscow inspired dissent amongst NATO members, has both shocked and horrified the free world.
In Europe, in the USA, and most importantly in Iran and beyond, questions are being asked about Russia's influence in the Middle East, and possibly in the commission of this atrocity itself.
The December 2006 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution which imposed an embargo on the export of technology related to nuclear weapon delivery systems to Iran, which also included certain technologies which can be used in conventional military applications, was never, in reality, it might well be argued, properly observed by the Kremlin.
Iran needs to buy weapons, Iran needs to buy modern technology. When Iran is under Western sanctions – especially at the moment American sanctions – the country has to go somewhere – and that’s Russia.
Indeed, Russia has supplied Iran with multiple weapons systems, including the TOR-2 Surface-to-Air-Missile (SAM) launcher that brought down Flight PS752 with the loss of 176 innocent lives on January 8th.
That Russia was also behind the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukrainian airspace on July 17th 2014, with the loss of 298 lives, is arguably beyond question.
Russia has also supplied Iran and its increasingly unstable neighbours with naval technology, and in the case of Iran, the Shkval rocket torpedo, a high speed weapon developed to arm Russian submarines, according to Forbes magazine (Jan. 8th) unlike anything in Western service, and now in the Iranian arsenal.
Russia, seeing prospects for multi-billion dollar deals, ruled out extending a United Nations approved arms embargo on Iran that expires in October next year, despite U.S. warnings that lifting the restrictions will jeopardize global security.
Western powers have concluded that Iran was behind the attack on Saudi oil installations with drones and cruise missiles, that the regime used mines to damage tankers, to seize ships in the Persian Gulf, and to shoot down a U.S. drone over international waters.
It is noticeable that despite the arms embargo, and the fact that Russia officially was to abide by it, in 2016 Iran acquired Russian made S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems.
Although obsolete by NATO standards, the S-300, dating from the late-1970s, is, by developing nation standards, a high capable weapons system, and one that can offer a potential challenge to any unwary NATO aircrew.
The S-300 was acquired by Iran from officially "unknown sources": however it might be noted that whilst such regimes as Belarus, North Korea, Vietnam, and Venezuela were also supplied with the system, even the USA managed to acquire it on the "black market". Such is the anarchic nature of the Russian arms industry.
Russia has also supplied, "officially" or otherwise, anti-aircraft missile systems to other client states, notably to the much vilified al-Assad regime in Syria, to which Putin's regime is also reported as having supplied chemical and/or biological weapons for use against its own civilian population.
The Asia Times has emphasised the fact that Russia is already reaping economic benefits from the current instability in the Middle East: Oil prices have soared, leading to the strengthening of the much troubled Russian ruble, one of the world's least stable currencies, and one dependent on the aforementioned energy exports.
Iran’s retaliation against the US has so far been limited to a weak missile attack on American military bases in Iraq, which caused no casualties. With the risk of an escalation fizzling out – at least for now – the crisis is increasingly looking like an opportunity for Moscow.
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