Soviet Perceptions of Iraq

by Roderic Pitty
published in MER151

From the Soviet point of view, Iraq under the Baath Party has been a troubling enigma, in terms of its place in the Third World generally and its political position in Middle East diplomacy. In the first respect, Iraq during the 1970s did not manage to consolidate itself as one of the USSR’s dependable allies, which official Soviet parlance refers to as “states of socialist orientation.” Most Soviet scholars sooner or later reached the conclusion that Iraq has really been on the capitalist path of development, although neither Moscow nor Baghdad could state this openly.

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Moscow's Crisis Management

The Case of South Yemen

by Fred Halliday
published in MER151

In January 1986, a major crisis broke out within the leadership of the Yemeni Socialist Party, the ruling party in the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. In two weeks of fighting many thousands of people lost their lives, and afterward between 30,000 and 70,000 fled to neighboring North Yemen.

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The Middle East and Soviet Military Strategy

by Michael MccGuire
published in MER151

The Middle East, the Persian Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean are of particular strategic concern to Moscow because of their proximity to the Soviet Union. In addition, the Soviets view the Middle East in the second half of the 20th century as akin to the Balkans at the turn of the century: they consider the area to be the most likely source of a world war. Since 1979, moreover, the Soviets have confronted the concrete possibility of a major military conflict with the United States in the area north of the Persian Gulf. This prospect has brought the dangers of political turbulence in the Middle East into sharper focus, and altered Soviet perceptions of the immediate strategic significance of various countries in the Middle East.

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The USSR and the Gulf War

Moscow's Growing Concern

by Fred Halliday
published in MER148

In the seven years since the Iran-Iraq war began, Soviet policy toward the conflict has been quite constant. Moscow regards the war as “senseless” and has repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire and return to the status quo ante, as outlined in the 1975 Algiers Agreement between Iran and Iraq. Moscow considers the war as dangerous not only because of its destructiveness to both combatant states, but also because, by alarming the Arab states of the Peninsula, it has provided a justification for greater US military deployment in the region. In the longer run, Moscow is concerned about the collapse of either the Tehran or the Baghdad regimes, and the uncertainty that could result in a region so near the Soviet Union’s borders.

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Karsh, The Soviet Union and Syria

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER163

Efraim Karsh, The Soviet Union and Syria: The Asad Years (London: Routledge, 1988.)

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A "Miracle" Made in Moscow and Washington

by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
published in MER164

If the intifada has been an Israeli nightmare, upsetting a reality with which most Israelis had grown comfortable, the immigration wave of Soviet Jews to Israel which began in December may turn into a “miracle” that will lift the morale of many Israelis for years to come. The Soviet immigration wave of the 1990s may have an impact like that of the 1930s, when 250,000 non-ideological, well-educated German Jews settled in Palestine and made the victory of Zionism in 1948 possible.

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To Save Syria, Work with Russia and Iran

by Aslı Bâli , Aziz Rana | published August 15, 2012

As the violence intensifies in Syria, external powers, including the United States, are embracing increasingly belligerent positions. Indeed, in recent days the United States and Turkey have announced plans to study a no-fly zone after calls by many American commentators for a more direct military role.

Although there is no doubt the government of President Bashar al-Asad carries the overwhelming responsibility for the unfolding tragedy in Syria, the attempt to militarily defeat the regime is the wrong strategy if the goals are reducing violence and protecting innocent civilians.

Halliday, From Kabul to Managua

by Rajan Menon
published in MER166

Fred Halliday, From Kabul to Managua: Soviet-American Relations in the 1980s (Pantheon, 1989).

To give an account, in a mere 163 pages, of Soviet-American competition in the Third World is no mean feat. After all, this rivalry has lasted nearly half a century and its form has varied considerably. Moreover, there are now 120 independent states in the Third World, and there have been over 100 diverse conflicts. There is, to say the least, much to account for. Yet this is precisely what Fred Halliday has done, with lucidity and thoroughness. At times, Halliday’s conclusions are even provocative and unpredictable.

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Continuity and Change in Soviet Policy

The Gulf Crisis and the Islamic Dimension

by Alain Gresh
published in MER167

The day after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and US Secretary of State James Baker announced what they termed “an unusual step.” They issued a communique “jointly urging the international community to join them and suspend all supplies of arms to Iraq on an international scale.” The Gulf crisis, the first major post-Cold War international crisis, provides a concrete measure of changing Soviet strategy in the Third World. While Soviet policy can be explained in large part by a desire to maintain good relations with the United States, one cannot disregard, in the short or the long run, the weight of Moscow’s relations with the Middle East and how they affect its strategy and tactics in the region.

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New Soviet Thinking on the Middle East

by Garay Menicucci
published in MER169

Grigorii Grigorevich Kosach teaches at the Academy of Social Sciences in Moscow. Some of his works translated into English include The Comintern and the East (Moscow, 1981), and “Formation of Communist Movements in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon in the 1920s and 1930s, ” in The Revolutionary Process in the East: Past and Present (Moscow, 1985). His latest work, on the formation of the Communist Party of Palestine, will be published shortly by Hauka Press in Moscow. Kosach has lived and worked in various countries in the Arab world, including Kuwait, Syria and Algeria. Garay Menicucci, who spent the 1989-1990 academic year in Leningrad and Moscow conducting dissertation research, interviewed Kosach in June 1990 and translated the interview from Russian.