Moscow (GPA) – The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister says Russia is willing to play the role of mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Following the recent visit of Saudi Arabian King Mohammad Bin Salman, Russia has offered to play a new role as a neutral arbiter between the Gulf kingdom and their enemies in Tehran. This sentiment was voiced yesterday by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.
Bogdanov reiterated Russia’s overarching goal of Middle East peace. Saying of the region’s two powers/adversaries that Russia “tried several times and offered [to help Iran and Saudi Arabia sit down at the negotiating table],” but that his country (unlike the US) would “not impose our intermediary role.”
Bogdanov went on to say that Russia has “always told our partners in both Saudi Arabia and Iran that we are ready to provide both a platform for contacts and friendly services.” Bogdanov also highlighted the failure of every other country or bloc of countries efforts to play the role of mediator, saying “Many problems would have been much easier to resolve had there been mutual understanding and trust between Tehran and Riyadh.”
Bogdanov’s statement highlights the apparent differences between the Russian and US ideas for Middle East stability. Unlike the US, Bogdanov stressed that Russia seeks to promote understanding between Tehran and Riyadh, rather than trying to turn the two nations against each other in attempts to strike a precarious balance.
This latest statement from Russia is sure to ruffle feathers of US war hawks, who have already been sounding the alarm since King Salman’s visit to Moscow last week. As we have already seen in Syria, the US doesn’t take kindly to Russia’s involvement in the Middle East and showing their influential capability regarding events in the region.
Salman’s trip of irked the US for many reasons, not least of which is the $3 billion in deals struck between Moscow and Riyadh. These agreements were struck in areas of the Saudi economy where the US used to have more control such as the energy and defense sectors.
One of the deals struck was between Saudi state oil firm Saudi Aramco and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to kickstart new oil refinery projects, which apparently concerns the most significant Saudi oil customer – the US. Another deal that is currently bothering the US is the defense contract negotiated between Moscow and Riyadh, which the US and U.K. disapprove of for cutting into the arms market of one of their primary clients.
The defense deal currently being negotiated between Russia and Saudi Arabia is the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense missile systems. The US has attempted to subvert this agreement by offering the Saudis several THAAD anti-missile systems the day after Russia announced the S-400 sale.
However, despite this attempted protection of the Saudi arms market, the deal with Russia is apparently not going to be affected. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov reflected this in a statement, telling reporters that the “contacts to implement this contract have been very positive and have had very good preliminary results.”
Russian official Maria Vorobyova reinforced Peskov’s statement, who seemed to signal that the US offer was too late and that “an agreement has been reached with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to deliver the S-400 air defense system.” Vorobyova also added that it wasn’t just the S-400s sold to Riyadh but also “anti-tank Kornet-EM rocket systems, TOS-1A (multiple rocket launcher) systems, AGS-30 automated grenade launchers, and Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles.”
Clearly, the US remains opposed to all of this while at the same time powerless to stop the Saudis from making their own decisions. Even as the Saudis reassure the US this doesn’t mean a downgrade in relations between Washington and Riyadh. It’s apparently still making observers nervous that they’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that Russia now plays a significant role in the Middle East and will most likely continue to for the foreseeable future.
Also published on Medium.