Russia’s Return to the Middle East, and What It Means for Israel

Above all, writes Yaakov Amidror, Moscow’s intervention in Syria, along with its cultivation of closer diplomatic ties with Cairo and Tehran, is aimed at restoring Russian influence to what it was at the height of the cold war, and ultimately at supplanting the U.S. as the dominant force in the region. While Israel continues to make the best of a bad situation, the horizon is not bright:

Israel . . . has some major disagreements with Russia, especially after the sale of sophisticated weapons to Iran and Syria and the transfer of many weapons systems to Hizballah. [However], Russia’s willingness to tolerate Israel Air Force operations over Syria reflects a certain understanding of Jerusalem’s position. In a way the tacit permission it grants to Israeli operations to stop the arms transfers legitimizes those operations.

Overall, in its relationship with Russia, Israel is realistic. It tries to understand what can be achieved (for example, a lengthy delay in supplying Iran with the S-300 surface-to-air missile system) and what cannot be achieved (for example, the outright cancellation of the sale of the S-300 missile system).

Israel understands that it cannot stop cooperation among Iran, Hizballah, and Syria in the war against the [anti-Assad] rebels. Israel has been able, however, to establish a conflict-prevention mechanism to prevent any incidents that could occur if Israel and Russia were to operate in the same area without reliable communication.

This mechanism is not an alliance, or even a coordination agreement. It is a technical arrangement with the goal of preventing incidents. It is limited to the narrow field of preventing error in an area where both sides are active, each for its own purposes. The diplomatic significance of the conflict-prevention mechanism should not be overstated. Nor should Israel rely on the hope that the Russians will limit Hizballah’s or Iran’s operations against Israel or do anything to mitigate them.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli grand strategy, Middle East, Russia, Syrian civil war

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy