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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Downplays Iraqi Gulf Threat

As the United States ordered the deployment of more than 50,000 troops to the Persian Gulf to confront Iraq, Russia sought a diplomatic solution to what one Foreign Ministry official called "a fluid situation."


Russia has "no need to send troops now," said the official, a senior aide in the ministry's Near East and North Africa Department. "It would be suicide for Iraq to try anything."


Russia does not see the presence of nearly 80,000 Iraqi troops near the Kuwaiti border as a threat to stability in the region, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.


Still, Moscow joined a wide circle of governments calling for Baghdad to immediately withdraw its troops from the Kuwaiti border and warned Iraq against making threats against the United Nations Security Council.


Baghdad has said its military moves are not aggressive in nature, and that it is within its rights to assemble military troops wherever it wants inside Iraq. Russia, so far, appears to be satisfied with the argument, despite the U.S. view that the troop movements are a threat to oil-rich Kuwait.


"It's not a question of believing or not believing. International politics depends on concrete situations," the Foreign Ministry official said. Besides, the official said, Iraq no longer presents the threat it did in 1990 when its troops crossed the Kuwaiti border, touching off the Gulf War.


"Iraq doesn't have the destructive power now that it had then. Their entire military program is under the supervision of the United Nations," the official said.


If Iraq is truly holding military exercises, however, it did not have to hold them on the Kuwaiti border, a Western political analyst said.


"There are lots of other places where they could have had the exercise," said Andrew Duncan, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.


Viktor Posuvalyuk, the director of the Foreign Ministry's Near East Department, told Itar-Tass that his recommendations to Baghdad were "restraint, self-control, rejection of any type of troop movements and cooperation with the UN -- especially with the special commission on the destruction of weapons of mass destruction and rocket technology."


Russia, once Iraq's superpower patron, has long urged Iraq to comply with the terms of UN disarmament resolutions. And in recognition of Iraq's progress under UN supervision, Russia has also called on the Security Council to take steps to ease the 1990 international embargo that has debilitated Iraq's economy.


Moscow has held a series of trade negotiations with Baghdad and envisions a wide array of transactions should the embargo be lifted. Iraq also owes Russia $7 billion in trade debts.


Interfax reported Monday that an Iraqi delegation headed by the Minister of Natural Gas was in Moscow for talks on the development of natural gas sources in Iraq.


But Iraq is mistaken if it thinks Russia would support any aggressive act, Duncan said. "I would have thought the Iraqis would be taking a chance on getting Russian backing." In the meantime, he went on, Russia seems to be striking a moderate stance.