Saturday, October 04, 2008

Russian alliance with Baathists in the making?

It has happened before.

"So far, the United States is trying to cajole Maliki into supporting the Awakening, offering $300 to $500 per month for each member of the Sunni militia. At the same time, US military officers in Iraq have promised to guarantee the payments to the Sunni forces and to shield the Awakening from attacks or reprisals by the regime. But among Sunnis, including those interviewed for this story, there is widespread concern that they are on their own and that the United States will not abandon the government in Baghdad despite its sectarian, pro-Iran leanings.

In that case, said a former top Iraqi official, many Sunnis may turn to an unlikely source for support: Russia. "The Russians are very active," he said. "They are talking with many Iraqis, including resistance leaders and Awakening members, in Damascus, Syria. They are in discussions with big Baathists." According to this official, former Baathists, army officers and Awakening members in Damascus, Amman and inside Iraq are looking to Russia for support, especially since Russia seems intent on reasserting itself in the Middle East. "The Russians intend to come out strongly to play with the Sunnis," he said. "I heard this from sahwa members in Damascus and Amman. 'If the Americans abandon us, we will go to the Russians.'"

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