Eye on the Middle East Feb/Mar 1998

Iran is gloating. Russia, eager to once again become a major player in the Middle East, is touting the close ties being developed with the nation that sent hundreds of thousands of its children to death in the desert during its war with the Iraqis.

Moscow has declared itself committed to building strong relations with Iran, despite Washington’s efforts to isolate the radical Islamic republic. What’s in it for Russia? Money, power, and prestige—the stuff that feeds the egos and economies of like-minded tyrants. Blaming Israel for the stalled peace process, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov pushed some buttons that resonated in the Arab world.

Besides stressing the continuation of Iranian-Russian cooperation, Primakov called for the Israeli “Zionist regime’s” withdrawal from Southern Lebanon as well as “measures by the international community against the regime’s aggressions.” For good measure, the foreign minister threw in a statement stressing Moscow’s resolve to expand its cooperation with the Islamic republic. This means more long-range ballistic missiles and improved warheads, adding to Israel’s cause for concern.

But Israel, while being out front in the gut-wrenching business of standing in harm’s way, is not the only targeted nation. We must remember that America has been assigned “Great Satan” status by Iran and other rogue regimes in the Middle East. And although the Kremlin has tried to wear a new face over the last few years, old hatreds for democracy and all that America represents make Russia and Iran predictable bedfellows.

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