- Print This Post Print This Post

by John Helmer, Moscow 

For the time being, there are no official photographs of the meeting in Moscow on Thursday evening at the Russian Foreign Ministry between Mikhail Bogdanov, the deputy foreign minister and chief Russian negotiator in the Middle East and Africa, and  Mohammed (Mukhameddov) Abdelsalam leading a  delegation of the Ansarallah government of Yemen, known as the Houthi movement.  

The absence of photographs does not mean a blackout. 

Bogdanov’s communiqué said “special attention was paid to the development of tragic events in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone, as well as the aggravation of the situation in the Red Sea in this regard. In this context, the missile and bomb attacks on Yemen undertaken by the United States and Great Britain, which are capable of destabilizing the situation on a regional scale, were strongly condemned.”

This is the plainest signal to date of Russian backing for the southern front of the Arab war against Israel, and the link which the Houthis have made between the Israeli blockade of Gaza,  the genocide of the Palestinians, and the Red Sea blockade which the Houthis have imposed on vessels owned or directed by Israeli shipowners,  US naval fleet, and American-flagged and other vessels carrying military and civil cargoes to Israel or reload ammunition for future attacks on Yemen.

At the same time across Moscow, unusually large delegations of officials of the Russian Security Council, led by Nikolai Patrushev, and Ali-Akbar Ahmadian, special presidential representative and Secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, have been meeting to discuss a detailed agenda which Patrushev’s communiqué calls a “wide range of Russian-Iranian security cooperation” and “the practical implementation of the agreements reached at the highest level.” 

In an open statement for reporters, Ahmadian told Patrushev: “”America’s grandeur has shattered, and today, it cannot even rally its traditional allies. A country that considers itself a superpower is engaged in war against resistance groups and the people of the region.”  

The display of Russian support for the Axis of Resistance  against Israel and the US is unprecedented. The Foreign Ministry and Security Council meetings confirm there is now a new definition of “terrorism” in Russian warfighting strategy, in which there is both public and secret support for Hamas, the Houthis, and other groups in Lebanon and Iraq fighting for national liberation against Israel and the US.

On the differentiation between national liberation which Russia supports, and terrorism which it condemns, click to read this.  

Source: https://johnhelmer.net/

Bogdanov’s meeting with Abdelsalam was not the first high-level Russian contact with the Houthis, nor their first negotiation. The two officials had met in Moscow on July 24, 2019, when they discussed terms for ending the civil war in Yemen; Bogdanov was also meeting at the time with other Yemeni political factions.  Abdelsalam said then:  “The meeting discussed the most important issues related to the Yemeni policy and the steps of the national delegation [the Houthi delegation] in the Stockholm Agreement  in addition to the regional crisis, in addition to the importance of the Russian role at the regional level,  and its reflection on the situation in Yemen to calm the escalation and prevent further tension as Yemen represents a key point towards regional calm that will be positively reflected in the tense regional situation.”  

Bogdanov met Abdelsalam again in Oman on August 30, 2019.  

Above: Bogdanov (left) meeting Abdelsalam (2nd left) in Moscow on July 24, 2019.
Below: Abdelsalam meeting Bogdanov in Muscat on August 30, 2019.  

So long as the agenda was limited to the Yemen civil war and the intervention of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the Israelis were not exercised. But they are now, as the Russian Foreign Ministry announcement of Thursday evening’s negotiations caught Israeli intelligence agents and government officials by surprise. The first Israeli press reports over Thursday night  cribbed from Reuters which had followed Tass in reading the Foreign Ministry communiqué; no Israeli officials were available to comment to their reporters.

The Russian-Houthi negotiations took place in parallel with the talks between the Russian Security Council and their Iranian counterparts headed by Ali-Akbar Ahmadian, head of Iran’s Security Council. Tass reported that  Nikolai Patrushev had invited Ahmadian to the talks. Ahmadian issued a statement through the Iranian Embassy in Moscow to say “the Supreme National Security Council secretary hailed Iran-Russia cooperation in the fight against terrorism, particularly in Syria, saying that cooperation must continue.” By terrorism Ahmadian meant Israeli attacks on Iranian military advisers in Syria, as well as the bombing of civilians at the Kerman cemetery on January 3.  

Patrushev (ring) on the left meets Ahmadian, sitting directly across the table, 2nd from right.

Here is the full text of the Bogdanov-Abdelsalam communiqué:   

On the meeting of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mikhail Bogdanov with a delegation of the Yemeni Ansar Allah movement

“On January 25, the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mikhail Bogdanov received a delegation of the Yemeni Ansar Allah movement headed by Mohammed Abdelsalam.

“During the in-depth conversation, an in-depth discussion took place on the issues of a comprehensive settlement of the military-political crisis in Yemen, which has been going on for almost nine years. At the same time, the importance of increasing international efforts to create the necessary conditions for establishing a full-scale inter-Yemeni national dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations was emphasized.

“Special attention was paid to the development of tragic events in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone, as well as the aggravation of the situation in the Red Sea in this regard. In this context, the missile and bomb attacks on Yemen undertaken by the United States and Great Britain, which are capable of destabilizing the situation on a regional scale, were strongly condemned.”

Here is the Russian Security Council communiqué following the plenary session between Patrushev, Ahmadian and their delegations, before they broke up into working-group meetings:  

“In Moscow Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev held talks with the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Ahmadian” -- http://www.scrf.gov.ru/

“A wide range of Russian-Iranian security cooperation was discussed. The focus is on the interaction of the security councils, law enforcement agencies and special services of the two countries. Special attention is paid to the fight against terrorism, information security issues, problems of ensuring the economic security of Russia and Iran in the face of sanctions pressure from Western countries, as well as countering attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The development of a new bilateral comprehensive long-term agreement was touched upon. It was emphasized that the conclusion of this fundamental document will give a powerful impetus to the further development of mutually beneficial cooperation in all spheres.

“In addition, the conversation discussed global and regional trends, as well as the upcoming bilateral and multilateral contacts between the Security Councils of Russia and Iran in 2024. The schedule of activities of the working groups of the Security Councils of the two countries on issues of mutual interest has been agreed.

“The parties noted that relations between Russia and Iran continue to strengthen and reach a qualitatively new level across the entire spectrum of areas. The focus on the practical implementation of the agreements reached at the highest level was confirmed.”

Hours after this meeting in Moscow, but before the Houthis arrived at Bogdanov’s office in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a press conference at the United Nations in New York. Lavrov did not mention the Houthis explicitly nor did he condemn their blockade of Israeli ports, shipping and deliveries, but he did attack the Anglo-American bombings of Yemeni territory.   

Source: https://www.youtube.com/

 “Regarding the Red Sea,” Lavrov said, “there is a direct and illegal aggression there in violation of all international norms. Those taking part in it and who are behind this aggression are lying when they claim that this is an act of self-defence in accordance with the UN Charter. Our mission in New York has circulated a real document that reviews all the arguments put forward by the UK and the US and exposes their actions as outright robbery rather than self-defence.”  

Asked about Russia’s relationship with India and the plan for an eastern maritime corridor for shipping between the two countries, Lavrov replied by emphasizing Russia’s strategic priority is to defend against US and NATO attacks, including economic warfare against its oil exports. “A question of this kind calls for a lengthy answer. To put it briefly, just like most countries on the Eurasian continent, Russia needs new corridors as a way of cutting logistics costs and ensuring faster deliveries compared to using the Suez Canal or sending ships around Africa. Everyone is interested in creating these transport and logistics chains and ensuring that they are independent from the West and those who regularly abuse their standing in global trade and along the shipping routes.

“There is the North-South corridor that ensures quick, effective and reliable shipments from the Baltic Sea to the Persian Gulf. There are plans to link Russian ports in the Far East with India. There is also an initiative called Europe–Middle East–India, backed by western Europeans. For us, the North-South corridor remains a priority and India stands to directly benefit from it. This route will cross Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and go all the way to India. Pakistan is also interested.

“There has been much talk about this lately. India is looking at the Northern Sea Route with a lot of interest. The same goes for China. Considering global warming and the fact that it is expected to become operational year-around, the Northern Sea Route can directly compete against all other routes since it cuts shipping time by a third compared to the Suez Canal, to give you one example.  We have been discussing it with our Indian colleagues but, of course, not at the Foreign Ministry level. The ministers of economy, finance, transport and our prime ministers are working on this matter. This is one of the most promising tasks in terms of our regional development.”  

Source: https://splash247.com

Moscow sources say the official communiqués indicate the multi-track approach Russian strategy is adopting, and speak for themselves, requiring no comment at this stage

Vzglyad, the semi-official Moscow website for security analysis, which has followed a pro-Israel, anti-Hamas line since October 7, reported on January 24 that their sources are confident that Russian oil shipments to India and China, through the Suez Canal and Red Sea, remain secure from attack by the Houthis, and also that there will be no behind-the-scenes interference from Saudi  Arabia. Without saying as much, the Vzglyad reporter conceded this is only possible because there have been direct Russian agreements with the Houthis and Iran.   

Source: https://vz.ru/

“Russia has not changed logistics at all,” Vzglyad reported a source, Igor Yushkov, an analyst of the National Energy Security Fund.   “Ships with our oil are still sailing through the Red Sea past Yemen, and we will most likely be the last to leave the Suez Canal. Russia will [sic] obviously try to negotiate with Iran to coordinate the passage of Russian tankers through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.”

“In general, Russia, of course, benefits if all the other oil producers are forced to send their ships around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope, while Russia itself retains the shorter, previous route through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea…Because the logistics will become more expensive for all other companies, these costs will be included in the cost of oil, and so that will grow. Whereas Russia’s transportation costs will remain the same, and it will then be possible to sell Russia’s oil more expensively. As for Saudi Arabia, Russia has many more points of common interest with it than differences. Therefore, the West’s bet on a contest between the two countries over the entire situation with navigation in the Red Sea is premature.”

Premature is official Russian-speak for wishful thinking.

Boris Rozhin, chief of the Colonel Cassad internet platform and one of the leading military analysts in Moscow, noted on the evening of January 25: “Since the Yemeni Ansar Allah movement began its operations against shipping related to Israel, the volume of cargo traffic through the Suez Canal has decreased by about 85%. Navigation on the Suez Canal has almost completely stopped after the attacks in the Red Sea. This has a serious impact on the Israeli economy.”   Rozhin, who has been writing on the Yemen conflict for several years, has not yet commented on the Houthi visit to Moscow.

According to Vzglyad’s source, “I don’t see any serious reduction in Russian oil supplies to India and China. Moreover, by itself Russia is now reducing production and exports; these are included in the new commitments under the agreement with OPEC+.    At the same time, Russia is still the largest supplier for both India and China. Therefore, it is not worth saying that we have left these markets or someone has pushed us out… There are no problems with the sale of Russian oil, and it is unclear why Saudi Arabia would squeeze Russia out of the Asian market. In the previous two years, we have  swapped markets — the Saudis got the European market after Russia left. At the same time, Saudi Arabia is still represented in Asia, where Russia has now become a strong player. It makes no economic sense to compete and knock the ground out from under each other’s feet…In order to displace Russian oil from the Asian markets, the Saudis would have to offer the same price as Russia offers. However, it is more profitable for Saudi Arabia to send oil to Europe, even around Africa, than to give the same discount of $10 per barrel which Russia gives to India and China.”


Source: https://oilprice.com/

Vzglyad concludes: “Even if Saudi Arabia gives this discount, Russia will still have nowhere to go, because we cannot supply this oil to Europe. This means that we would have to give an even bigger discount to Asian customers. Why should Saudi Arabia compete with us in the amount of this discount in order to supply oil to China and India, if they have the European market…One more point: if Saudi Arabia and Russia supply oil to Asia, who will supply oil to Europe? Then there will be a shortage of oil in Europe, the price will rise, and the Europeans will lure non–Russian oil at a high price.”

Moscow sources note that since this is the consensus calculation of the Russian oil exporters, the political and military calculation follows that agreement on terms with the Houthis and Iran is a must. “There is no place left for Israel in this calculation of Russia’s national interest”, one of the sources adds.

Leave a Reply