Russia-India-Iran strategic triangle
Dr Jassim Taqui
Frontier Post (Articles)
During his recent visit to India Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov suggested the formation of a " strategic triangle" between Russia, India and China. In fact, he should have replaced China with Iran. All facts on the ground suggest that Moscow, New Delhi and Tehran have secretly evolved a form of strategic cooperation. This cooperation is aimed at isolating the United States and its allies in South Asia, especially Pakistan.
Russia, India and Iran have been an instrument in foiling the plan of the Taliban to "digest" Northern Afghanistan. Once, this dream is achieved, the pro- Pakistan Taliban militia would advance towards the oil-rich Central Asian Republics and Persian Gulf to establish the nucleus of the modern Islamic empire.
Ostensibly, the United States sensed the scheme. Hence it started acting very quickly and decisively to break this strategic triangle.
In a calculated move, the United States started an intensive diplomatic move to break the Iran-Chinese-Russian military axis, exploiting its strong political and economic links with Beijing and Moscow. The US Secretary of Defence, William Cohen has started a new initiative with Beijing and Moscow .
The main concern is that Iran should be deprived of mass destruction weapons and medium-range ballistic missiles and technology in accordance with NPT and MTCR. It seems that Cohen has succeeded since a BBC report from Beijing disclosed that China assured Cohen that it would not violate NPT and MTCR. Another report emanating from Moscow divulged that Russia also confirmed to Washington that it would follow suit and would stop transfer of the nuclear and missile technology to Iran.
According to the Washington Post, the Americans won China by pledging it enhance military and economic ties. Reportedly, China would immediately stop selling C-801 and C-802 cruise missiles to Iran in order to save its ties with the United States including annual transfer of technology and exports valued at $7 billion.
Russia has its price as well. It is receiving annual economic aids from the United States valued at 800-1000 million dollar in a bid to help Moscow stabilise market economy at home. To qualify for that aid, Russia has no choice but to cancel Sam missiles with a range of 850 miles and capable of carrying chemical and nuclear warheads.
The United States is worried over the Chinese missiles system and possible transfer of missiles technology to Iran. Recently, China has successfully tested a new type of long-range ground-to-air missile capable of evading radar detection and electronic interference and can hit its target accurately.
The new missile marks the raising of China's air-defence ability to a new level since China has surprised both India and the United States by devising a new form of missile system not available with both.
China's military has in recent years tried to accelerate the development of high-tech weaponry after seeing the long-range fire-power deployed by the United States in the 1991 Desert Storm. Within a short span of seven years, China has achieved tremendous progress in the missile system through an indigenous technology. Besides, China is also cooperating with Russian Federation in improving and upgrading its warplanes. A new Chinese warplane is being developed, which would be superior to the F-16 fighter planes.
By developing a new missile, China has completely neutralised the strategic value of the Indian long-range ballistic missile "Agni", which has a range of about 1550 miles and is capable of hitting major cities in China and Pakistan. The new Chinese missile would be able to knock down Agni while in the air and before it reaches its target.
Earlier, China was very concerned over the development of Agni missiles because of its longer range and more sophisticated guidance and delivery system. Worries have been heightened by India's ambiguous statements on its nuclear-weapons programme. Most probably, Cohen could accept anti-Agni missiles but would like that these missiles should not proliferate in the Middle East.
Russia has been close to Iran since the late eighties. Moscow surprised Washington when it gave a green signal to Russian private companies and research institutes to sell Iran missile technology last year despite close ties with the United States.
The Russian private companies reportedly sold some forbidden missile technology to Iran. It was that technology, which enabled Iran to manufacture Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 medium-range missiles. The Americans were really concerned. They protested that the Russian transfer of medium-range technology to Iran was "a gross violation of the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime)", since these missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads and other mass destruction weapons including chemical and biological weapons.
The United Arab Emirates voiced concern over the Shahab series of missiles, since Iran has territorial disputes with the UAE over the islands Abu Musa, Greater Tumb and Lesser Tumb.
Surprisingly, Moscow denied that it gave permission to the Russian private companies to transfer the missile technology to Iran when Arab countries protested. Moscow claimed that it had no control over Russian individuals and entities that are looking to make money in order to survive.
It is generally believed that Russian companies have exported poor technology to Iran. The technology is a little better than the Scud missiles, which are very crude and highly inaccurate. Iran was forced to buy the Russian missile technology due to the US and European sanctions on exporting technology to Tehran. On the other hand, Russian arms companies are virtually idle since the US and European companies have total control on the arms market in the oil-rich Arab countries. Moscow has, therefore, decided to take revenge from US and oil-rich Arab countries by selling its technology to their adversary .
There were also reports in the Arab press, which disclosed that Iran acquired unmanned aircraft that could evade radar from Moscow and used it in monitoring the US warships in the Persian Gulf and the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. Tehran denied, however, the story and said that "Iranian scientists have developed the aircraft without help from Moscow." Iran could use this plane in suicide bombing missions against US and Israeli targets if Washington and Tel Aviv attempted to destroy the nuclear facilities of Iran.
Under pressure from the United States, Beijing and Moscow might stop military cooperation with Iran. But, military analysts believe that Tehran could always find a way out either through development of its own industry or acquiring weapons from the black market.
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