Russia is the primary address

Source: Russia is the primary address – Israel Hayom

Oded Granot

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s whistle stop in Moscow on Monday was a direct continuation of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi last August. During that meeting, the prime minister had already told Putin that, if need be, Israel would not hesitate to act, even alone, to prevent Iran from establishing a foothold in Syria and Lebanon.

The frequency of the meetings in Russia is a testament to Israel’s ongoing disquiet. More accurately, there are numerous signs indicating that Israel continues to be troubled by developments on its northern front. This anxiety has gained expression in a variety of forms, from airstrikes attributed to Israel on Hezbollah weapons facilities in Syria; the unusual warning issued by IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, via the Lebanese media, that Iran is turning Lebanon “into one big missile factory“; and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s comments from Monday evening. Lieberman spoke about Israeli efforts to exhaust all avenues of “diplomatic leverage” to avoid a third Lebanon war.

In this regard, Russia is undoubtedly the primary address. If they want to, the Russians can apply significant pressure on the Iranians. Although the Russians define their relationship with Iran as a “strategic alliance” and need the Iranians to help secure an end to the war in Syria, their interests are not identical and sometimes opposing. For example, it is still unclear whether Tehran will be given an economic slice of Syria’s post-war rebuild, if and when it ever begins.

More importantly, while the Russians have thus far turned an apparent blind eye to Israel’s alleged airstrikes in Syria, they are well aware that if Israel were also forced to attack targets in Lebanon – to curb Hezbollah’s missile capabilities – it could spark a conflagration that jeopardizes Russian interests in the Middle East and undermines its achievements in Syria.

Military Intelligence Directorate chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi joined the prime minister in Moscow to help the Russians understand that Israel cannot accept the formation of a “Shiite crescent” along its northern border with Syria and Lebanon. That is to say: a menacing ring comprising Hezbollah units and pro-Iranian militias on the Golan Heights and Lebanon – armed with Iranian weapons and an arsenal of precise missiles.

Putin is characteristically holding his cards close to his chest. After his meeting with Netanyahu, it still isn’t clear how far he’s willing to go to block the Iranians. But Russia is currently the most important and almost sole address. U.S. President Donald Trump, while fully aware of Iran’s regional subversion and despite his considerable efforts to amend the nuclear deal, has thus far not promised Washington’s support for an Israeli campaign – if the need arises – to remove the Shiite threat from its borders.

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