“I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.” — Barack Obama
In reports published by both The New York Times and The Atlantic Wire on June 29, 2014, the Iraqis have grown weary of waiting on a promised delivery of American fighter aircraft. In what many consider the further waning of the United States as a prime mover and shaker, especially in the Middle East, the Russians are capably filling the void.
As reported by Bloomberg News last week, Iraq’s embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed in an interview with BBC Arabic his frustration with the Obama Administration’s “long, very slow way” they’ve gone about delivering the already purchased 36 F-16 Fighting Falcon jets. Stepping in to assist the central government in Baghdad is none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Referencing fully one-third of Iraq falling to al-Qaeda-allied ISIS terrorists, Maliki intimated to the British, “We shouldn’t have just bought U.S. jets, we should have bought British, French and Russian jets to provide air support. If we had air support, none of this would have happened.” In a none-too-subtle swipe at Obama, a dozen SU-25 Sukhoi Grach (translated: “Rook”) close air support jets from both Russia and the former Soviet Republic of Belarus just arrived in Baghdad along with support and training crews.
Not just are the fighter jets slow in delivery, the Aviation International News reported on June 27, 2014 that 30 Boeing AH-64D/E Apache attack helicopters as well as 24 Bell 407 armed reconnaissance helicopters are on order. What isn’t getting much publicity in the United States is that the order for the 90 aircraft was placed in September of 2011.
Iraq isn’t the only nation in the region where the Russian bear is eclipsing the American eagle. After Barack Obama abandoned the Egyptians who overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government in Cairo, Putin guaranteed the interim leader (and since elected president), General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a “no strings attached” $2 billion arms deal earlier this year.
Moscow is also re-establishing its naval presence in the Mediterranean by not only renovating but also massively expanding its Naval Base in the Syrian northern coast town of Tartus. Literally next door, Israel’s Haaretz News Service reported in 2010 that Russia “gifted” the Lebanese government six Mi-24 attack helicopters, 31 T-72 tanks, 36 130mm heavy-artillery pieces and a hefty and 500,000 shells.