Putin’s profitable intervention in Syria

Michael Weiss writes: The Syria war was as much a mediated weapons and hardware expo as it was a client rescue mission.

In October, Russian warships debuted the new Kalibr cruise missile, firing it across 900 miles of sea and land, across Iranian and Iraqi airspace (some of the missiles crash-landed in Iran, according to the Pentagon). But the display became a marquee event for Kremlin-run television, here acting as a multimedia brochure for Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms dealer, which last year sold $15 billion in weapons to foreign purchasers.

The 45 or so fixed-wing aircraft deployed to Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia, now a permanent Russian garrison and airbase on the Mediterranean, ranged from souped-up Soviet models to state-of-the-art killing machines. The Russian Air Force’s most modern ground attack jet, the Su-34, was showcased as a source of enormous national pride, with the state-owned outlet Sputnik reveling pornographically in the warplane’s ability to hunt “terrorists.” (The Su-34 was also documented cluster bombing populated areas, such as Hraytan, Aleppo.) Just before the New Year, Sergei Smirnov, the director of the Chkalov aviation factory, gave an interview with Vedomosti in which he said that Algeria, which has sought the purchase of the Su-32 export variant from Russia for the last eight years, recently made an official application to purchase the bombers from Rosoboronexport. Other potential buyers, according to “military expert” Igor Korotchenko, again hyping the Su-34 in Sputnik, are Vietnam, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.

Another sophisticated toy is the T-90 battle tank, examples of which have been spotted all over the Syrian battle space, at first guarding the Latakia airbase and now being driven by the Syrian army and Iranian-built Shia militias, such as Iraq’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, which in 2007 killed five U.S. soldiers in Karbala. In late December, Algeria announced that it planned to buy its third tranche of T-90s. Iran now also wants them. [Continue reading…]

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