Russia’s new role in the Middle East means that it will be watching very carefully how the confrontation between Washington and Tehran unfolds.
Russia has condemned the killing of the Iranian General, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow warned of “grave consequences for the regional peace and stability” and “a new round of escalating tensions.”
The Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, linked the timing of the attack to the coming U.S. presidential election, “Everyone should remember and understand that U.S. politicians have their interests, considering that this year is an election year.”
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, spoke by telephone to the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, January 3. Lavrov told his American counterpart that U.S. actions “grossly violate the principles of international law and deserve condemnation”, according to a press release from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Fear Of Escalating Regional Tensions
The same day, Lavrov’s boss, Russian president Vladimir Putin, had a telephone call with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. The Kremlin website said “both sides expressed concern” over Soleimani’s killing, and “It was stated that this attack could escalate tensions in the region.”
With its decisive role in the war in Syria, Russia has become a major player in the Middle East. In that conflict, Russia and Iran have both supported the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
In 2015, Reuters reported that Soleimani had traveled to Moscow in July of that year—weeks before Russia launched its Syrian campaign in September.
Russia’s Decisive Military Role In Syria
Russia’s military support has ensured that Assad remained in power. When, in October 2019, President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, the move was widely seen as further strengthening Russian influence in the region.
The same week, Putin seemed to confirm this with a highly-publicized visit to Saudi Arabia—Iran’s sworn regional rival that had also sided with anti-Assad rebels in Syria.
The message was clear: Russia was able to talk to all parties in the Middle East, and was, in consequence, increasingly important in the region.
Moscow’s regional relations mean that it will take a close interest in the way that events unfold from here. Iran has vowed to avengeSuleimani’s death. Depending on the form that takes, there could be further U.S. actions too.
Oil Prices Rise
But Russia will not just be watching military and diplomatic developments. As the Financial Times reported January 3, the price of “Brent crude jumped 3.5 per cent to more than $68 a barrel” following the killing of Suleimani. As a major oil exporter, dependent on oil and gas revenues for more than a third of its federal budget revenues, Russia will also be keeping an eye on the oil price.
Story Credit: James Rodgers for Forbes
Categories: World News