Moscow spearheaded international efforts earlier this year aimed at reaching a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Iraq, and insistently urged the UN Secretary General to involve himself personally in the crisis. When Annan did finally travel to Baghdad and concluded an agreement with Iraq authorities that averted threatened U.S.-British military action, Moscow treated the event as a major diplomatic triumph and proof of its restored ability to play a key role in international affairs. Indeed, developments in Iraq — which were very much the handiwork of Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov — may very well have saved Primakov’s job in Russia’s latest and still ongoing government reshuffle.
It was unclear after yesterday’s talks, however, whether Moscow had made any progress on several key issues related to Iraq and the UN. For several months now, Russian leaders have been angling to have Russian aircraft included in overflights of Iraq. Those overflights, which are part of the UN’s weapons inspection efforts in Iraq, are currently performed solely by U.S. aircraft. Similarly, Russia has sought to place a greater number of its own nationals on the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspection teams operating in Iraq — and, in general, to dilute the presence of Americans and Britons on those teams. Moscow has also formally proposed that a Russian diplomat be named as a deputy to Richard Butler, the UNSCOM Chairman. Butler currently has one deputy, Charles Duelfer, who is an American. Although these issues were reportedly to be under discussion during Annan’s visit to Moscow, there was little comment on them in reports of yesterday’s talks. (Russian agencies, March 29-30)
Meanwhile, Annan appeared to go out of his way in a Russian television interview on March 29 to underscore the notion that the U.S.-British military buildup in the Persian Gulf was crucial to Annan’s conclusion of the February agreement in Baghdad. (NTV, March 29) Russian leaders and most Russian news sources have tended to credit Moscow’s diplomatic efforts for the February agreement, dismissing Washington and London claims that effective diplomacy in the Gulf could be exercised only if backed up by a credible military threat.
Meanwhile, a former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq recommended yesterday that the United States "punish" Russia and France for their diplomatic activities on behalf of Iraq during the last Persian Gulf crisis. In remarks before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, David Kay was critical of Moscow and Paris for failing to support proposed U.S. military actions against Baghdad. (UPI, March 30)
Israel Purchased Russian Intelligence Photos.