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How rockets transformed the Middle East arms race and made Russia the big winner:

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The elegant and brutal way that the Russians have leveraged their position as the arms supplier of last resort to Iran and Syria is an excellent setup for a season of a show like The Wire set in the global arms business—a black comedy that would fill a big hole in HBO’s current lineup and help educate Roger Cohen about the way the world works. The standard Russian negotiating tactic is as follows: Russia signs two contracts for the delivery of a weapons system to Iran or Syria. The first contract is for a basic version of the system in question—a standard-issue modern fighter plane, tank, or surface-to-air missile. The second is for a more technologically advanced system that frightens Western military experts—like the S-300 missile, an advanced surface-to-air system that is capable of stopping modern warplanes from attacking Iran’s nuclear installations. The United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia protest. After a few weeks or months of suspense, Russia finally bends to the pleas of its Western-oriented commercial and diplomatic partners and agrees to postpone delivery of the more threatening system—for a while.

That’s the setup. What happens next is the really fun—and profitable—part of the scenario: the shakedown. The Russians apologize to the Iranians or the Syrians and promise that they will deliver the more advanced systems that were promised—soon, soon, once the heat from the hypocritical Western powers and their Jewish masters dies down. The Russians then demand that the United States, Israel, and the Gulf States make good on Russia’s losses on the semifictional contracts for scary weapons—which the Russians could always decide to deliver next month if the West and its allies don’t pay up. Washington accommodates Russia’s designs on Eastern Europe. Israel provides midlevel drone technology that the Russians are unable to develop on their own. The Gulf States buy billions of dollars’ worth of Russian weapons that might otherwise go to Iran.

The Iranians play their part in the game by stamping their feet and threatening to punish the Russians for playing devious games of footsie with their enemies. Then they send high-level delegations to Moscow in order to fix the exact date on which the S-300 missiles or MIG-31e fighter planes that they ordered a year ago, or three years ago, will arrive. In the meantime, the Russians have other goodies to offer. Announcements about a delivery date are made to the press and confirmed by high-level Russian sources. Then the game starts all over again. (Read how rocket diplomacy helped forge a three-way alliance involving Israel, Russia, and India.)

via slate.com

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