Why Russia Won’t Help Get Iran Out of Syria

Dec. 31 2021

Early Tuesday morning, Israel reportedly bombed Iran-linked targets in the Syrian port of Latakia for the second time this month. Fires burned there for nearly a day, suggesting that the targets were ammunition stores and explosives. As the Latakia port is close to two important Russian bases, the strikes again raise the question of why Moscow has for several years allowed the IDF to attack its Iranian and Hizballah allies in Syria. Anna Borshchevskaya cautions against drawing the wrong conclusions:

Israeli officials believe Russia can help deter Iranian aggression by limiting the forces Tehran deploys in Syria. . . . This belief originates in Moscow’s Syria intervention in September 2015. Once Russia entered the Syrian theater, Moscow took control of Syrian skies and the Israel Defense Force often had to forewarn, if not seek Russia’s permission, to conduct airstrikes against Iran-backed targets in Syria. Israeli officials interpreted Russia’s willingness to allow such strikes as a sign that Moscow favors Jerusalem’s concerns over Tehran’s interests in Syria.

Israeli officials may be misunderstanding Moscow’s motivations, however. Moscow accepted Israeli strikes not out of sympathy but rather because it has a genuine interest in ensuring that no actor in Syria becomes powerful enough to challenge Russia. The Israeli strikes were simply useful to keep Iranian ambitions in check.

The Israeli leadership has often read too much into this. Moscow’s actions showed repeatedly that Russia had neither the ability nor desire to limit Iranian-backed forces in Syria. . . . Russia’s entire Syria intervention depended on Iran doing the heavy lifting. This is a major component of how Putin kept the Russian intervention limited and inexpensive. [Moreover], Russia-Iran convergence to stymie American influence allowed both to put tactical differences aside.

Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, Syria


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount