The Connections between Russia’s Threats to Ukraine and the Nuclear Negotiations with Iran

As Moscow is building up its forces near the Ukrainian border, its representatives are involved in talks in Vienna over the possible restoration of the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program—to which Russia is a party. Anna Borshchevskaya explores the link between these two aspects of Vladimir Putin’s policy:

Although Moscow has always preferred a non-nuclear-armed Iran, it does not necessarily share Western goals, methods, or redlines on this issue. . . . Russia has also used its support for sanctions as leverage to extract concessions from the West.

Even when they occur at the same time, Putin’s policy decisions on Ukraine and Iran are better viewed as manifestations of a general anti-Western strategy than as directly connected actions. Hence, Washington should be cautious about how much store it puts in Moscow’s assurances on either front unless they are accompanied by concrete indications of deeper policy shifts.

Years of [nuclear] talks elevated Moscow’s standing as a global power without whom major diplomatic decisions could not be made, bolstering its position as a counterweight to the West . . . . Meanwhile, Russian commercial and defense transactions with Iran appear to have grown since the U.S. withdrawal from the [agreement. According to the Tehran Times, total bilateral trade increased from $1.74 billion in 2018 to $2 billion in 2019. . . . Moreover, Moscow is reportedly poised to sell 32 Su-35 fighter jets to Iran, which would significantly bolster the country’s air force.

Western policymakers may wish to believe that Russia can be helpful on Iran even if it makes harmful moves against Ukraine, but they need to see the bigger picture—Putin’s anti-Western posture has never been limited to Europe.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, Vladimir Putin, War in Ukraine

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security