FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Russia’s history of aiding and abetting the rogue regime in Teheran shows its desire for conflict with the West
Ross Douthat at The Atlantic posits that our current obligations in the War on Terror should at very least cause policymakers and military authorities to think very carefully before wading into the Russo-Georgian conflict in any meaningful way.
One side effect of entering into a “proxy war with Russia,” says Douthat, is that we would run the risk of the Bear “mak[ing] things harder for us where Tehran’s quest for nukes is concerned.”
With all respect to Mr. Douthat, it would be very difficult for Russia to be even less helpful to us vis-à-vis Iran — or to be more helpful to the Persian state — than they are already being, with regard both to the nuclear situation and to Iran’s conventional buildup.
In fact, moving to counter Russia’s latest attempt to expand its sphere of influence and dominion once again would not ignite a new conflict, but would demostrate our acknowledgment of Russia’s proxy efforts to work against the U.S. worldwide, which have been ongoing for years, including in the Middle East.
More detail below the fold.
Russia has been providing conventional and unconventional assistance to Teheran for years, including undertaking the construction of the light-water reactor in Bushehr (and, despite officially announcing it would do no more, offering under the table to build four more reactors) and providing nuclear fuel to the Iranians.
Russia has given cover to the Iranian regime in its battles with the IAEA, as well, in 2005 refusing to vote on resolutions finding Teheran to be in a state of “non-compliance due to “many failures and breaches” over nuclear safeguards” and abstaining from voting to refer the Iranian regime to the UNSC (they voted in favor in 2006, but had the languaged changed to reflect the action as being a simple report to the UNSC, rather than a referral for action). Russia has continued, throughout the diplomatic farce surrounding the Iranian nuclear program, to offer assistance to the Persians on uranium enrichment and conversion.
Russia has given Iran assistance and technology in the Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 missile programs, which Russia and North Korea provided together (the Shahab was largely based on theDPRK’s Nodong missile; further, the Shahab-3 was tested for upgrade as recently as 2005, when a solid-fuel motor was experimentally added). In April 2005, it was reported that Iran had acquired at least some number of the Russian nuclear capable 3000km range strategic air-launched cruise missile known as the KH-55 Granat. Further, as recently as 2000 the CIA reported that “Russian entities remain a significant source of biotechnology and chemicals for Iran” — in other words, Russia has helped Iran maintain at least some semblance of a Chem/Bio stockpile (though there is no international knowledge whatsoever about Iran’s biological program, if indeed it has one).
Last year, Russian officials peddled talking points about an impending American attack on Iran to take place in early April 2007, preparations for which “Russian intelligence” said were “nearly completed,” and bragged that the Russian-made air defenses employed by Iran were “strong enough” to “tackle U.S. combat aircraft.”
America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, another country sporting Russian-made air defense equipment, demonstrated the U.S.’s superiority to the Bear’s equipment (we lost nearly as many aircraft to our own Patriot missile batteries as we did to enemy fire). Russia has now moved to shore up the weaknesses in Iran’s air defenses, agreeing in December of last year to provide an even more modern and sophisticated strategic air defense system, the S-300PMU1, to the Persians — a move that “could portend a shift in the air-defense environment across the region.”
All this to say, Russia has continued to aid and abet in myriad ways the rogue regime in Teheran, which has been and continues to be actively waging a low-intensity war against the U.S. in Iraq and which is actively in pursuit of weaponized nuclear technology despite all of the diplomacy in the non-Russian-and-Chinese world being waged against it.
Now, it is true that in Afghanistan, Russia is one of three nations that have agreed to allow us to transport materiél overland into the theater of operations (thereby bypassing the growing problem of Pakistan, which has now become the true central focus of Islamist terror and of our war on such). This agreement, though, is not in the least a result of a desire on the part of the Russians to cooperate with the U.S. on anything; rather, it comes in large part as a result of the resurgence of the Taliban, and the growing problem of Islamist extremism in Russia proper and her outlying “territories”; in other words, they see value in helping us prosecute that central GWOT front, and are unlikely to change their minds on that simply because we refuse to allow them to invade an ally unmolested.
As Max Boot wrote in Commentary:
It is…important to give Georgia the wherewithal to defend itself. It has a small but capable military which has received lots of American training and equipment in recent years (and has paid us back by sending a sizable contingent to Iraq). But it may not have two key weapons that would enable it to wreak havoc on the Russian advance. I am thinking of the Stinger and the Javelin. Both are relatively small, inexpensive, handheld missiles. The former is designed for attacking aircraft, the latter for attacking armored vehicles. The Stinger, as we know, has already been used with devastating effectiveness against the Russian air force once before-in Afghanistan. The Javelin is newer, and the Russians haven’t yet seen its abilities demonstrated. But there is little doubt that it could do a great deal to bog down the Russians as their vehicles advance down narrow mountain roads into Georgia.
If Russia doesn’t call off its offensive right away, the Pentagon should rush deliveries of Javelins and Stingers to Georgia. If the Russians insist on committing acts of aggression, at least let their victims defend themselves properly-and make the Russians pay the kind of price they paid once before in Afghanistan. As we’ve learned recently, with Iran supporting anti-American attacks in Iraq, proxy warfare is a fiendishly powerful way of fighting. If it is used against us, it should also be used by us.
Stingers and Javelins are a great start in Georgia. I don’t advocate an invasion or actual shooting war between the U.S. and Russia — we shouldn’t be sending CAS aircraft or ground troops (outside, perhaps, a solid SOF or OGA contingent), but simply helping our ally to defend itself is neither an act of war on our part, nor a legitimate provocation to the emaciated Bear that is trying so hard to awake itself and its millions of imperialistically/nationalistically-motivated citizens to conquest once again.