#2 - JRL 7135
New York Post
April 8, 2003
A ROLE FOR RUSSIA?
A six-vehicle Russian diplomatic convoy fleeing Iraq's war-torn capital limped into Damascus, Syria, yesterday - somewhat the worse for wear.
That is to say, bearing bullet holes and related evidence of travel through the Iraqi killing zone.
Moscow's ambassador to Iraq, Vladimir Titorenko, blamed the damage on the U.S. Army.
"After leaving Baghdad . . . we faced a number of American armored vehicles, tanks and guns," says Titorenko. "We tried to warn them, but they fired at us directly, and the shooting continued for about 40 minutes."
But not likely.
Because, judging from the piles of smoking, twisted roadside wreckage that comprises the "elite Iraqi armored forces" these days, if the Army had in fact targeted Titorenko's little motorcade, it too would have been reduced to scrap metal.
It would have been poetic justice.
For Moscow - directly or through cutouts like Syria and Belarus - has been peddling high-tech arms to Iraq for some time now.
The Koronet missiles believed to have destroyed at least two Abrams M1-A2 main battle tanks last week could only have come from Russia - albeit perhaps through Belarus.
Meanwhile, it appears that Russian-built night-vision goggles and global-positioning-satellite jammers have also turned up on the battlefield - and these, too, are not generally available on the world arms market.
National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice was in Moscow yesterday, extending a hand after the diplomatic tensions between the two nations in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The United States and Russia have common interests - thus, insofar as it is to America's advantage to maintain cordial relations, Rice is furthering legitimate national goals and interests.
But Moscow has been very, very bad lately.
It needs to pay a price for that.
The idea that there is a major role for Russia in postwar Iraq is almost as nonsensical as imagining that there's a place at the table for France.
As for Ambassador Titorenko, he just needs to count his blessings.
He's alive, isn't he?