Moscow’s interest in the Middle East and the growing Russian presence in the region go beyond Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war. For several years Russia has been building partnerships with various regional powers, and Iraq — with parliamentary elections only days away — has been a priority.
The Soviet Union helped Iraq industrialize its economy and was the country’s largest weapons provider until the union collapsed in 1991. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Western sanctions against it interfered with the Russia-Iraq weapons relationship. Then, after the US-led coalition’s overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq got most of its weapons from the United States.