How Russia Will Repay Iran for Its Loyalty

Jan. 13 2023

Despite historical rivalries and competition for oil markets, cooperation between the Kremlin and the Islamic Republic of Iran stretches back many years, and intensified when the two began fighting together to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Since the resumption of the war in Ukraine last year, Tehran has provided Moscow with deadly drones, and may be sending ballistic missiles and other arms as well. This development brings the two countries even closer together, writes Nadav Pollak, and makes it likely that Russia will seek ways to repay its Middle Eastern ally:

Russia can improve Iranian military hardware capabilities significantly, mainly through the provision of air-defense systems, which would honor a longtime Iranian request. . . . Should Iran obtain advanced air-defense systems from Russia, the Tehran regime will be better equipped to thwart any future possible attack on its nuclear infrastructure or other strategic facilities. Add the possibility of acquiring advanced aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-35, and the challenge of executing an aerial attack against Iran while minimizing losses becomes yet a bigger headache for military planners.

Yet a focus on military hardware can obscure other threats to the balance of power between Israel and Iran, first among them intelligence. Here, Russia enjoys advanced capabilities in both imagery and signals intelligence and could furnish such capabilities to Iran, or share sensitive intelligence that could help Iran better defend itself. Imagine here a scenario in which Russia obtains intelligence on Israel’s future war plans, or on covert Israeli operations in the Middle East. Whereas Russia might previously have hesitated to share such information, it may now be more forthcoming, considering the risks to its own people Iran has assumed by arming Russia.

Some Israeli analysts have argued that Iran’s working relationship with Russia, and specifically incoming prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s connection with Vladimir Putin, can alleviate these concerns. This argument holds that Russia will not take any dramatic steps to alter the Israel-Iran balance of power, for fear that this would harm Russia’s relationship with Israel or push Israel to provide Ukraine with air-defense systems. But this argument fails to understand the fundamental change in Russia-Iran relations—namely, Tehran’s rising status in Moscow—a change that will hold if the Ukraine war drags on and Russia needs more Iranian drones and ballistic missiles.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, War in Ukraine


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria