While the republican President Donald Trump has been directing his reality show extravagance of playing hardball with Mexico by threatening it with tariffs in exchange for assistance with a record number of Central American refugee families seeking legal asylum in the USA, an Israeli news outlet has been reporting about how the USA, Russia, and Israel (with the backing of countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE United Arab Emirates) have formed an alliance in opposition to Iran.
See NYT article: Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump deal…
Keep in mind the backdrop to this story which is that Russia has been a long-time ally of Iran. But it’s a snapshot of Israeli’s wish list.
While all of this is news to me, it’s not a surprise…
On June 9, 2019, Zvi Bar’el of Haaretz penned the following report, “Analysis //There’s a New Alliance in the Middle East” (“Russia, the United States and Israel are uniting against Iran, making it clear to Bashar Assad who will determine the future of the region”)
“The world is watching this butchery. What is the purpose, what will it get you? STOP!” tweeted President Trump, as though he were a human rights activist or a frustrated neutral observer, rather than the leader of the world’s most powerful superpower.”
By “butchery,” Trump meant the increasing Syrian and Russian attacks on the Idlib province in Syria, where at least 232 people, some 60 of them children, were killed in recent weeks. Hundreds were wounded, dozens of clinics and hospitals were wiped out and hundreds of houses were pulverized. More than 3,000 people fled the area in May alone.
“This is the rebels’ last significant bastion and its capture is necessary to complete Assad’s control of the state. Pockets of resistance remain in Hama and the south of Syria, but the most difficult challenge is the rebels’ main force, some 50,000 combatants affiliated with dozens of militias, the largest of which is a descendant of the Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra.”
“The big campaign against Idlib, already planned a year ago, hasn’t actually begun. In the last few days, Syrian army forces have taken over villages while Russian planes struck intensively, but these are just the opening shots, intended to pressure rebels, along with Turkey, to choose negotiations over mass killing. If the battles continue, a new mass wave of refugees is expected to enter Turkey and join the 3.5 million refugees already there.”
“Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 that Turkey would drive out the armed rebels and clear the region of heavy weapons, effectively handing over the province to Assad’s control, or at least turning it into a kind of security zone under Turkish and Russian supervision. But Turkey failed in its mission, and the rebel militias refused to lay down their arms.”
“The campaign on Idlib is holding up Russia’s plans to draft a new constitution for Syria, hold elections, stabilize the government and begin the country’s rehabilitation.”
“But Russia has no intention of simply returning Syria to Assad’s control. It sees Syria as leverage to furthering its hold in the Middle East. This consists of building bridges with Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates, forging an economic alliance with Egypt while giving it military assistance, getting rid of American and European sanctions and bolstering its status in the world.”
“These Russian aspirations, however, are not compatible with Iran’s. Iran sees Syria not only as a strategic outpost that will preserve Iran’s influence in Lebanon, but as a regional outpost to counterbalance Saudi Arabia’s ambitions. This outpost will open pathways for Iran into the Mediterranean and complement the alliances it has forged with Iraq and Turkey. This is viewed as a strategic threat not only to Israel and the United States, but to Russia as well.”
“Recent local clashes between pro-Iranian militias and Russian-sponsored militias indicate that Russia is acting to thwart the Iranian threat. On the face of it, these are local incidents, but on a bigger scale, Russia is training and arming local militias through private Russian companies. The combatants wear Russian uniforms and use Russian weapons. Russia has also ordered Assad to fire pro-Iranian officers and soldiers while Russian officers have taken command of some Syrian army units.”
“Iran was painfully slapped in the face twice by Russia. Once, when Russia turned down its request to buy S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, and a second time when Russia continues to enable Israel to attack Iranian targets in Syria.”
“The Kremlin spokesman declared that the “distorted reports on the issue” must be treated cautiously, but Russian research analysts told journalists that Russia sees selling S-400 missile systems to Iran as “a threat to the region’s stability.”
“For Iran, this is a message that Russia will not stand by its side if it is attacked by the United States or Israel, and moreover, that Russia has an interest in keeping Iran in isolation. This assumption is shared by Western observers, who say Russia’s support for Iran’s decision to reduce its commitment to the nuclear agreement stems from its desire to keep up tensions between Iran and the United States, as part of its strategic game as Europe’s exclusive oil provider.”
Two days after Iran notified the signatory states of its decision to reduce commitments to the agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov declared that the move was “inconceivable.” But a few days later, Lavrov justified Iran’s decision in a joint news conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and said that the United States had made Iran take this step.”
“Recently, when Trump spoke again of his desire to negotiate with Iran with no preconditions, Iran rejected the overture while Russia remained silent. Removing the sanctions from Iran or alleviating them is not in Moscow’s interest, because when the nuclear agreement came into effect, they worriedly watched how European countries set to diversify their oil sources away from Russia.”
“There were plans at the time to build an oil pipeline from Iran to Europe via Turkey, and part of it was already built. At the same time, a gas pipeline was completed between Russia and Turkey, meaning Russia was leading in the race. If the sanctions are lifted and Iran becomes a player in the oil market again, Russia may lose a chunk of the European market.”
“The meeting of Israel’s, Russia’s and the United States’ interests regarding Iran generated the idea for a summit of national security advisors, to take place in Israel this month. According to unconfirmed sources, Russia expects the United States to recognize Assad’s regime and lift sanctions. In exchange, Russia will act to drive Iran out of Syria.”
“This is an unusual meeting, in which the three national security advisors, Meir Ben-Shabbat, John Bolton and Nikolai Patrushev, will discuss regional developments as equal partners. Such a summit, even if it doesn’t yield immediate concrete results, conveys to Iran and the region that the Russian-American-Israeli axis could be the one to draft the new Middle East roadmap.”
“But immediate military and diplomatic results could be overambitious. Lavrov made it clear recently that expecting Russia to bloc Iran’s forces in Syria was “unrealistic.” Russia also failed to keep its promise to keep Iran’s forces more than 80 kilometers away from Israel’s border in the Golan Heights, and there are doubts whether it can make Iran withdraw at this stage.”
“About 6 months ago, journalist Barak Ravid reported on Channel 13 that Patrushev had proposed to Ben Shabbat, in an unofficial document, that Russia will bring about Iran’s withdrawal from Syria in exchange for lifting of sanctions by the US. Israel rejected the proposal and the sanctions were imposed in full.”
“If the United States decides to alleviate or revoke sanctions, it will do so in exchange for renewed negotiations with Iran and a new nuclear agreement. It will not settle for an Iranian withdrawal from Syria.”
Another option is to pressure Assad to get Iran’s forces out of Syria, because he’s the one who invited them in, and Iran will find it hard to stay if they’re unwelcomed. In return, Assad may receive American recognition of his regime and an Israeli promise not to attack in Syria after the Iranian forces’ departure.”
“Assad’s problem is that if he agrees to drive Iran’s forces out he will have to explain to Iran why it’s them and not Russia. Assad will also have to rely on the United States, Israel and Russia, which have repeatedly stated that their interest in Syria is not reserved for one person.”
“Iran, on the other hand, supported him all the way, gave him credit lines and $6-8 billion in assistance. Iran was there for Assad long before the war started. But he doesn’t have to decide who to choose yet. The war isn’t over and no American temptation has yet been offered. But the moment is approaching, and Assad will have to decide.
Related Haaretz articles:
Hello Gronda. Most people do not understand how cash poor Russia is. The average person in Russia is very poor. The reason is Putin and his cronies have drained so much money out of the economy. Like a cime mob that they are they have taken so much money out of every business that there is little left over. Russia has military hardware but has only about six weeks of full war ability before they simply will run out of money. The oil and gas sales mean a heck of a lot to Russia and without them Putin would have a hard time to maintain power. It is funny how Russia spends so much time and energy to sneak behind everyones back causing trouble to achieve what they can not get openly. Hugs
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You are right on the money again. What President Putin really wants out of Syria is permanent access to the naval base in Tartus. Militarily and strategically this access is crucial to Russia.
But guess who’s working behind the scenes to insure he has a market in China for his oil in competition with Saudi Arabia, and soybeans instead of US farmers?
As per 11/28/2019 Reuters report by Florence Tan, Chen Aizhu, Rania El Gamal , Saudi Arabia is set to expand its market share in China this year for the first time since 2012, with demand stirred up by new Chinese refiners pushing the kingdom back into contention with Russia as top supplier to the world’s largest oil buyer.
As per 5/17/ 2018 Bloomberg report, “China, the world’s biggest soybean importer, almost tripled purchases from Russia amid a trade dispute with the U.S., the biggest producer.”
“Russia sold about 850,000 metric tons of soybeans to China from the start of the 12-month season in July through mid-May, according to Russia’s agriculture agency Rosselkhoznadzor. That’s more than during any season before and compares with about 340,000 tons sold during all of the previous period, Chinese customs data show.”
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Realpolitik in its ugliest.
(I understand that Israel and Russia have their own hotline; this is to avoid ‘accidents’ when they are both dropping bombs on civilians in the same region)
In a grim humorous look, this will drive some of my fellow UK left wingers into an existentialist crisis…..Of course as far as they are concerned Israel is evil, evil, evil; but at the same time Putin can do no wrong. Square that circle?
This is starting the resemble to politics of Old Europe over several centuries
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Gronda, I feel like “1984” is being lived out. The US president derides our friends and allies and then cuddles up to strong arm leaders. Israel is our friend, but we should not agree with everything they do, just as they will have some concerns over what we do. I am not saying we should not deal with Russia, but we need to be less trustful than the US president appears to be.
Of course, I trust Putin as much as I trust Trump, which is very little. Part of me feels Trump’s decisions are to promote his business investments (think investing in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel and North Korea). It is reported today Kushner has been gaining some unknown foreign investments which should give us pause.
No matter the reason, I question the motivations of everything Trump does and says as many are hard to explain while others are to improve perception to win again and do more of the same.
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You are arguing my number 1 reason for why the US House should commence a impeachment inquiry. President Trump has 1 1/2 years left in his term to put the US national security interests at risk.
Putting President Trump’s behaviors under the microscope will result in creating some limits/ constraints on him.
I’m still thinking that Russia has been pulling his strings. That means an impeachment hearing will put a damper on Russia’s plans.
War makes for strange bedfellows. Israel wants Iran out of Syria and Russia needs to have upper hand in Syria to get permanent secure access of naval base in Tartus. But Russia can’t afford to overly upset Iran. That makes Russia, an unreliable partner.
Same old..same old…
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