What the War in Ukraine Means for Israel and the Middle East

Feb. 25 2022

Writing just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in earnest, Eldad Shavit, Udi Dekel, and Anat Kurz examine the conflict’s implications for the Jewish state, and for the dangerous region in which it resides:

The possibility that Russia might exploit the [situation] in Syria to demonstrate to the United States that it can increase the volatility of arenas other than Eastern Europe is already materializing. Moscow has recently been making it difficult for Israel to wage its campaign against Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and Tehran’s efforts to transfer weapons through Syrian territory to Hizballah in Lebanon.

In January Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that Russian and Syrian aircraft had conducted a joint patrol in the skies of the Golan Heights, and that Moscow and Damascus intend to continue doing so. This was a clear message to Israel that Russia has the ability, if it chooses, to impede Israel’s struggle against the Iranian axis as it presents in Syrian territory. This should also be seen as a step aimed at making it clear to Jerusalem that from its perspective there is a risk in taking sides in the crisis between Russia and NATO, and as a message to Washington that Moscow has additional points of leverage.

[Moreover], an American response to a Russian attack on Ukraine, which would isolate Russia and deepen the sanctions imposed on it, is expected to have negative consequences for Israel. As part of the Russian response against the United States’ allies, it is possible that Moscow would cut off the Russian-Israeli operational coordination and try to thwart Israeli strikes in Syria using Russian air-defense systems and interception aircraft. Simultaneously, it is possible that Russia would refrain from restraining Iran and even encourage it to use its proxies, not only against the American forces in Syria, but also against Israel.

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Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Israeli Security, Russia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, War in Ukraine

 

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

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