Debate - Opinion in English, Russia and Baltic States
Debate - Opinion in English
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Iraq/Russia/Yugoslavia GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE UPDATE Baghdad, Belgrade and Moscow Collaborate Against Washington 14 April 2000 SUMMARY Russia has reportedly brokered a deal to upgrade Iraqi air defense systems. The weapons upgrades Iraq could receive are of the same type that may have downed an F-117 stealth plane over Serbia during Operation Allied Force. After a visit to Belgrade, Iraq’s defense minister met his Russian counterpart in Moscow April 14. There is a substantial history of military cooperation among the three countries, and Iraq and Yugoslavia have recently indicated a possible alliance. The possibility of such an alliance, tacitly supported by Russia may be nearing reality and could threaten U.S. policy. ANALYSIS Iraqi Defense Minister Col. Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad arrived in Moscow April 14 and met with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, reported Interfax. Prior to his arrival in Moscow, Ahmad was in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The past military cooperation among the three countries offers an explanation of Ahmad’s travels. The three may be cooperating to create simultaneous crises for U.S. policy. Prior to and during Operation Allied Force, Yugoslavia and Iraq maintained close military cooperation. A Yugoslav military delegation, headed by the deputy defense minister, visited Baghdad just before commencement of the NATO bombing of Serbia, according to a March 1999 Jerusalem Post report. Both nations, threatened by U.S. warplanes, needed improved air defense systems. Serb technicians regularly serviced Iraq’s Soviet-made MiG-21s and MiG-29s, according to the Jerusalem Post. The two nations also reportedly worked out a deal. In return for Yugoslavia rebuilding Iraqi air defenses, Baghdad would provide Belgrade with oil and cash to sustain the war effort. The Washington Times in March 1999 cited a U.S. intelligence official who said that some of Iraq’s integrated air-defense system, including surface-to-air missiles (SAM), was of “Yugoslav origin” and may have been sent from Russia via Yugoslavia. The paper also claimed that there were reports of limited contacts between Iraqi and Yugoslav air-defense officials several months prior to Operation Allied Force. During Operation Allied Force on March 27, 1999, a U.S. Air Force F-117 stealth fighter-bomber went down over Yugoslavia. A U.S. Pentagon official initially assessed that a Serb SAM hit the F-117, reported The Washington Times. The official said the plane apparently dropped below 20,000 feet, at which time the Serbs optically spotted the plane and launched either an SA-3 or SA-6 SAM. The report also cited several unnamed U.S. sources, who speculated that Russia had helped upgrade Serbia’s air defenses. The Times of London reported Oct. 7 that Russia, in violation of an arms embargo, had actually supplied the Yugoslav army with new warheads, fuses and sensors for its SA-6 missiles. The Pentagon has still not officially disclosed its findings on what caused the F-117 to go down. Operation Allied Force stretched U.S. forces to their limits. When the bombing campaign began in March 1999, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, stationed in the Persian Gulf, re-deployed to assist the war effort. Another carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk re-deployed from the Pacific region to cover the Persian Gulf – leaving the entire Pacific region void of a U.S. carrier presence for 86 days. Additionally, many U.S. warplanes stationed in Turkey to enforce the northern no-fly zone in Iraq were used for missions in Yugoslavia – leaving the northern no-fly zone under-patrolled. Recently, Iraq and Yugoslavia have expressed renewed enthusiasm in mutual cooperation. A Yugoslav delegation, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Maja Gojkovic, was in Baghdad March 28 and met with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, who expressed Iraq’s eagerness to expand comprehensive cooperation with Yugoslavia. Iraq now appears to be looking to Yugoslavia and Russia to upgrade its air defenses. Interfax Russian News reported April 16, 2000, that Iraqi Defense Minister Col. Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad arrived in Moscow via Belgrade. In Moscow, Iraq’s defense minister met with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev. On the same day, the London-based Sunday Telegraph reported that Russian military officials have brokered a deal with Belarus to rebuild Iraq’s air defenses. The report stated that the Belarussian state-owned military hardware company, Beltechexport, agreed to upgrade Iraqi air defense systems. Under the deal, Beltechexport will upgrade Iraqi anti-aircraft guns as well as Iraq’s SA-3 anti-aircraft missiles. Also, Iraqi air defense crews will reportedly be sent to Belarus for specialized training, where they will be familiarized with the latest Russian electronic warfare systems. If the report is true, it would not be the first time Iraq has attempted to upgrade its air defenses to threaten U.S. and British warplanes. In 1998, the CIA uncovered a plot by Iraqi agents to secretly purchase Tamara – a special electronic warfare system made in Czech Republic that can track radar-evading stealth planes like the F-117 and B-2 and may have been involved in the F-117 stealth shoot-down over Serbia. Military and technological cooperation between Baghdad and Belgrade poses potential simultaneous threats in two different arenas. Milosevic may simply be helping Iraq to give himself some leeway without launching his own crisis. However, if Iraq seriously threatened U.S. warplanes while Milosevic simultaneously ignited a crisis in Kosovo, the United States would have serious trouble containing both crises. It is not certain that Saddam acting alone would want to shoot down U.S. planes even if he could. There would be severe repercussions, such as the extensive bombing of palaces and military facilities. The real threat is dual-crises in Iraq and Yugoslavia. Russia is positioned to challenge U.S. policies and has criticized the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the U.N. bombing of Iraq. The downing of the F-117 in Serbia was linked to reports that Moscow upgraded Yugoslav air defenses, and Russia is now reportedly behind Iraqi attempts to upgrade its air defenses. The possibility of an Iraqi-Yugoslav alliance tacitly supported by Russia is becoming more of a reality. The ramifications of such an alliance could result in simultaneous crises that threaten the safety of U.S. forces and the maintenance of U.S. policy in each region. copyright. www.stratfor.com
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