HAIFA, Israel – In exchange for Russia’s military intervention in Syria, embattled President Bashar al-Assad acquiesced to Moscow’s further exclusive exploration of gas fields off the Syrian coast, according to informed Middle Eastern defense sources speaking to WND.
The silent agreement, the sources say, extends beyond the multi-million-dollar deal Syria signed in 2013 with Russian company Soyuzneftegaz for exclusive offshore drilling, development and production pertaining to a 2,190 square kilometer bloc of Syria’s territorial waters. The area stretches from the city of Tartus, where Russia has a naval fleet, to Banyas.
Agence France-Presse described the 2013 contract as “the first ever for oil and gas exploration in Syria’s waters.”
In 2010, a U.S. Geological Survey predicted as much as 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be found in the northern part of the Levant Basin off the Syrian coast.
This is in addition to Syria’s strategic position on the Mediterranean to pipe Iranian and Kuwaiti gas to the European market, which Russia has long dominated.
Russia has kept up a sustained air campaign in Syria, with strikes promptly followed by Syrian ground attacks, as WND reported.
On Friday, WND quoted Middle East defense sources saying Russia is updating battle plans to carry out possible airstrikes in Iraq as soon as next week.
The sources said Moscow is awaiting a more formal request from the Iraqi government before expanding its campaign targeting insurgents in the region, a campaign that U.S. officials believe is primarily about asserting Russian influence.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday and Thursday made a series of comments supportive of Russian intervention in his country.
The comments come after Iraq announced earlier this week it recently established an intelligence-sharing platform with the Russians, Syrians and Iranians.
The intelligence coordination could potentially jeopardize U.S. security, because the U.S. maintains its own intelligence-sharing channels with Iraq.
“It’s a possibility; if we get the offer we’ll consider it,” Abadi told France 24 television in an interview recorded Wednesday and broadcast Thursday, speaking about future Russian air strikes in Iraq.
“In actual fact, I would welcome it.”
Abadi further told the PBS “NewsHour” he already spoke with Russia over the matter.
“Our message to the Russians — I met with Putin — please join this fight against Daesh,” he said, referring to the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“Daesh is a dangerous terrorist organization, not only against Iraq, against Syria, against the whole region, against the whole world. It is time that we all join the same forces to fight Daesh.”
On Thursday, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said his country has not been invited by Iraq to act against ISIS there.
“We are polite people, we don’t come if not invited,” Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of a U.N. gathering of world leaders.
Ilya Rogachev, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for new challenges and threats, said Moscow would consider airstrikes in Iraq if invited by the country.
“If we have either a corresponding request from the government of Iraq or a resolution from the U.N. Security Council, the adoption of which to a conclusive degree matches the will of the government of Iraq,” said Rogachev. “If we have these sufficient grounds, then the political and military appropriateness will be evaluated.”