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.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

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

 

The End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and the Rise of the Arab-Israeli Coalition

Nov. 30 2022

After analyzing the struggle between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors since 1949, Dan Schueftan explains the current geopolitical alignment and what it means for Jerusalem:

Using an outdated vocabulary of Middle Eastern affairs, recent relations between Israel and most Arab states are often discussed in terms of peace and normalization. What is happening recently is far more significant than the willingness to live together and overshadow old grievances and animosities. It is about strategic interdependence with a senior Israeli partner. The historic all-Arab coalition against Israel has been replaced by a de-facto Arab-Israeli coalition against the radical forces that threaten them both. Iran is the immediate and outstanding among those radicals, but Erdogan’s Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, Syria—and, in a different way, its allies in the Muslim Brotherhood—are not very far behind.

For Israel, the result of these new alignments is a transformational change in its regional standing, as well as a major upgrade of its position on the global stage. In the Middle East, Israel can, for the first time, act as a full-fledged regional power. . . . On the international scene, global powers and other states no longer have to weigh the advantages of cooperation with Israel against its prohibitive costs in “the Arab World. . . . By far the most significant effect of this transformation is on the American strategic calculus of its relations with Israel.

In some important ways, then, the “New Middle East” has arrived. Not, of course, in the surreal Shimon Peres vision of regional democracy, peace, and prosperity, but in terms of a balance of power and hard strategic realities that can guardrail a somewhat less unstable and dangerous region, where the radicals are isolated and the others cooperate to keep them at bay.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel-Arab relations, Middle East, Shimon Peres, U.S.-Israel relationship