Archive for the ‘Iran and Russia’ category

Russia Constrains Iran

June 4, 2018


Poster showing Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Russian President Vladimir Putin
(ABNA News – Iran)

BY Amb. Dore Gold June 3, 2018 VIA Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Source Link: Russia Constrains Iran

{Iran is like the house guest who never leaves, only worse. – LS}

In an astounding series of statements, Russia has made it clear that it expects all foreign forces to withdraw from Syria. Alexander Lavrentiev, President Putin’s envoy to Syria, specified on May 18, 2018, that all “foreign forces” meant those forces belonging to Iran, Turkey, the United States, and Hizbullah.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov added this week that only Syrian troops should have a presence on the country’s southern border, close to Jordan and Israel. Previously, Russia had been a party to the establishment of a “de-escalation zone” in southwestern Syria along with the United States and Jordan. Now, Russian policy was becoming more ambitious.  Lavrov added that a pullback of all non-Syrian forces from the de-escalation zone had to be fast.

The regime in Tehran got the message and issued a sharp rebuke of its Russian ally. The Iranians did not see their deployment in Syria as temporary. Five years ago, a leading religious figure associated with the Revolutionary Guards declared that Syria was the 35th province of Iran. Besides such ideological statements, on a practical level, Syria hosts the logistical network for Iranian resupply of its most critical Middle Eastern proxy force, Hizbullah, which has acquired significance beyond the struggle for Lebanon.

Over the years, Hizbullah has become involved in military operations in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and elsewhere. Without Syria, Iran’s ability to project power and influence in an assortment of Middle Eastern conflicts would be far more constrained. Syria has become pivotal for Tehran’s quest for a land corridor linking Iran’s western border to the Mediterranean. The fact that Iran was operating ten military bases in Syria made its presence appear to be anything but temporary.

Already in February 2018, the first public signs of discord between Russia and Iran became visible. At the Valdai Conference in Moscow, attended by both Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (and by this author), the Russian Foreign Minister articulated his strong differences with the Iranians over their pronouncements regarding Israel: “We have stated many times that we won’t accept the statements that Israel, as a Zionist state, should be destroyed and wiped off the map. I believe this is an absolutely wrong way to advance one’s own interests.”

Iran was hardly a perfect partner for Russia. True, some Russian specialists argued that Moscow’s problems with Islamic militancy emanated from the jihadists of Sunni Islam, but not from Shiite Islam, which had been dominant in Iran since the 16th century. But that was a superficial assessment. Iran was also backing Palestinian Sunni militants like Islamic Jihad and Hamas. This May, Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, told a pro-Hizbullah television channel that he had regular contacts with Tehran.

Iran Supports both Shiites and Sunnis

Iran was also supporting other Sunni organizations like the Taliban and the Haqqani network in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It harbored senior leaders from al-Qaeda. Indeed, when the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, sought a regional sanctuary after the fall of Afghanistan to the United States, he did not flee to Pakistan, but instead, he moved to Iran. There is no reason why Iran could not provide critical backing for Russia’s adversaries in the future.

But that was not the perception in Moscow when Russia gave its initial backing for the Iranian intervention in Syria. In the spring of 2015, Moscow noted that the security situation in Central Asia was deteriorating, as internal threats to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan were increasing. On top of all this, the Islamic State (IS) was making its debut in Afghanistan. An IS victory in Syria would have implications for the security of the Muslim-populated areas of Russia itself.

It was in this context that Russia dramatically increased arms shipments to its allies in Syria. It also coordinated with Iran the deployment of thousands of Shiite fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan under the command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). That also meant the construction of an expanded military infrastructure on Syrian soil for this Shiite foreign legion.

At the same time, Russia maintained and upgraded a naval base at the Syrian city of Tartus and an air facility at the Khmeimim Air Base near Latakia. Moscow also had access to other Syrian facilities as well.

Russia Achieved Its Main Goal and Changed Its Policy

What changed in Moscow? It appears that the Kremlin began to understand that Iran handicapped Russia’s ability to realize its interests in the Middle East. The Russians had secured many achievements with their Syrian policy since 2015. They had constructed a considerable military presence that included air and sea ports under their control in Syria. They had demonstrated across the Middle East that they were not prepared to sell out their client, President Bashar Assad, no matter how repugnant his military policies had become – including the repeated use of chemical weapons against his own civilian population. The Russians successfully converted their political reliability into a diplomatic asset, which the Arabs contrasted with the Obama administration’s poor treatment of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt at the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011. However, now Iran was putting Russia’s achievements at risk through a policy of escalation with Israel.

The Russian security establishment appeared to understand from the start that Israel’s strategy in Syria was essentially defensive. For example, Israel wanted to prevent the delivery of weapons to Hizbullah that could alter the military balance in its favor. One feature of Russian military policy at a very early stage was the carte blanche Moscow appeared to give Israel to strike at these weapons deliveries and later at Iranian facilities across Syria.

According to one report, a Moscow think tank, closely identified with President Putin, published a commentary blaming Iran for the deteriorating situation between Iran and Israel in the Syrian theater. The Sunni Arab states, which Russia was courting, were also voicing their concerns with growing Iranian activism. Undoubtedly, the Russians noticed the complaints that came from Tajikistan this year that Iran was seeking to destabilize the country by funding militant Islamists.


Russian President Putin meets with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Mohammed Khatami in 2015 (Kremlin)

Putin seemed to have growing reservations about Iran’s policy of exporting the Islamic revolution from the soil of Syria. Now, with IS fundamentally vanquished, Iranian military activity in Syria lost its primary justification. And if Moscow was considering to more closely coordinate its Middle Eastern policy with Washington in the future, it needed to adjust its approach to Iran.

On May 22, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed aspects of Iranian activism which the United States was now demanding that Iran halt. It was not surprising to see in Pompeo’s list the demand that “Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety [of] Syria.”

Russia is not cutting its ties with Iran. But it is clearly cutting back Iran’s freedom of action in Syria. The idea that Russia would back Iran’s use of Syria as a platform for operations against Israel or Jordan is not tenable. Still, Russia would remain the primary supplier of Bashar Assad’s army in Syria as well as his strategic partner. Unquestionably, Iran would need to reassess its Middle Eastern strategy after Moscow’s pronouncements calling for it to leave Syria and not continue to be perceived as the force that put at risk all that Russia had achieved as a result of the Syrian civil war.

The new Persian Empire

September 29, 2017

The new Persian Empire, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May, September 29, 2017

Decades ago, Khomeini envisioned what now seems to be coming to pass. In his 1970 book, “Velayat-e faqih” (also known as “Islamic Government”) he wrote: “We have set as our goal the worldwide spread of the influence of Islam.” Over time, he expected Iran to become so powerful that “none of the governments existing in the world would be able to resist it; they would all capitulate.”

It’s essential that Trump and his advisers grasp what too many others still have not: Iran’s rulers represent a cause, the fulfillment of “a dream of imperial rule,” as Kissinger phrased it. If the United States does not stop them – if, on the contrary, they continue to manipulate Americans into assisting and enabling them in Syria and elsewhere – no one else will stand in their way.

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Eleven years ago, Henry Kissinger famously said that Iran’s rulers must “decide whether they are representing a cause or a nation.” If the latter, Iranian and American interests would be “compatible.” As for the former: “If Tehran insists on combining the Persian imperial tradition with contemporary Islamic fervor, then a collision with America is unavoidable.”

Since then, Iran’s rulers have left no room for doubt. They’ve been aggressively spreading their Islamic Revolution and constructing what can only be called a new Persian Empire. That will surprise no one who has seriously studied the ideology of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic republic. What might: Their project has received significant support from the United States.

I’m not suggesting that was the intention of American policymakers. But it’s certainly been the result. The toppling of Saddam Hussein by President George W. Bush in 2003 eliminated Iran’s archenemy and rival. That might not have been a serious dilemma had Iraq subsequently been transformed into a reliable American ally.

But you know what came next: an insurgency, waged by al-Qaida in Iraq reinforced by Saddam loyalists. Iranian-backed Shia militias also went to war against American troops in Iraq. Eventually, Bush ordered the “surge.” American troops under the leadership of Gen. David Petraeus fought alongside Sunni tribes brutalized by al-Qaida and fearful of Iran. In the end, this alliance decimated jihadi forces in Iraq – Sunni and Shia alike.

By 2011, Iraq was, as then-President Barack Obama declared, “sovereign” and “stable.” He also called it “self-reliant,” which was incorrect. The U.S. military, in coordination with U.S. diplomats, had been balancing powers and brokering interests among Iraq’s Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities. Once Obama withdrew American troops, the erosion of Iraq’s stability and sovereignty was inevitable.

Iran’s rulers began twisting arms in Baghdad, in particular encouraging Shia sectarianism. Iraq’s Sunnis now had no defender other than al-Qaida which, with the Americans gone, was revived and reincarnated as the Islamic State.

Which brings us to the present. The U.S. is playing a key role in the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Journalists are reporting that as a victory. Historians of the future may disagree. If the territories taken from the Islamic State are bequeathed to the Islamic republic, American troops will have served, objectively, as Iran’s expeditionary forces.

This would not be the only critical support the U.S. has given to the clerical regime. In the early years of the Obama administration, serious sanctions hobbled Iran’s economy and restricted its offensive capabilities. But the pressure was significantly relieved in exchange for an interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Next came the final agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and the lifting of most sanctions, coupled with the tens of billions of dollars in frozen oil revenues Iran received directly from the U.S. and the hundreds of billions more it will receive from European and Asian trade and investment.

This windfall has allowed Iran’s rulers to defend their Syrian satrap, Bashar al-Assad, both with their own elite forces and those of Hezbollah, their Lebanon-based proxy militia. They also have organized and funded Shia militias in Syria and Iraq.

Thousands of Afghan and Pakistani Shia are being recruited for those militias. They reportedly receive salaries of $600 a month and promises of future employment in Iran, assuming, of course, that they survive. Others may stay permanently in Syria. In other words, Iran’s imperial project is becoming a colonial project as well.

I’m among those who believe President Donald Trump was correct not to give up on Afghanistan. The consequences of defeat at the hands of the Taliban and al-Qaida would have been dire – if not immediately, then over the long term. That said, the strategic value of Afghanistan pales in comparison with that of Syria and Iraq, the heart of the Arab/Muslim Middle East. If we can’t win everywhere – though I hope that, as a superpower, we can – there’s no question where our priorities should lie.

Imagine what it will mean if Iran succeeds in becoming the hegemon in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; also Yemen, which sits on one of the world’s most strategic waterways. Imagine, too, if this incipient empire goes on to acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to American targets – an eventuality delayed but not halted under the flawed JCPOA.

Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Israel and other countries would be seriously threatened. Using Syrian ports on the Mediterranean, Iran would extend its influence westward as well.

For Machiavellian reasons, Russia’s Vladimir Putin supports these ambitions. North Korea, a client of China, cooperates with Iran’s rulers – on missile development, illicit financial networks and perhaps nuclear weapons – even as it hones its own ability to threaten Americans.

Decades ago, Khomeini envisioned what now seems to be coming to pass. In his 1970 book, “Velayat-e faqih” (also known as “Islamic Government”) he wrote: “We have set as our goal the worldwide spread of the influence of Islam.” Over time, he expected Iran to become so powerful that “none of the governments existing in the world would be able to resist it; they would all capitulate.”

It’s essential that Trump and his advisers grasp what too many others still have not: Iran’s rulers represent a cause, the fulfillment of “a dream of imperial rule,” as Kissinger phrased it. If the United States does not stop them – if, on the contrary, they continue to manipulate Americans into assisting and enabling them in Syria and elsewhere – no one else will stand in their way.

Myths We Die By

September 25, 2017

Myths We Die By, PJ MediaMichael Ledeen, September 24, 2017

In this Aug. 14, 2017, photo distributed Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un acknowledges a welcome from the military officers during his visit to Korean People’s Army’s Strategic Forces in North Korea. The Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that Kim during an inspection of the KPA’s Strategic Forces praised the military for drawing up a “close and careful” plan. Kim said he will give order for the missile test if the United States continues its “extremely dangerous actions” on the Korean Peninsula. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

[N]one of the top policy makers sees the enemy alliance as a global threat. They think case-by-case, trying to devise separate “solutions” for each enemy.

I think they are wrong in both instances. I think Kim, Khamenei and Maduro, along with Putin and Assad, are right to fear their own people. And I am convinced that revolution is more likely to advance our interests than are military surges or economic sanctions.

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It’s now two weeks since we learned that British intelligence has concluded that the North Koreans couldn’t have developed their nuclear weapons all by themselves. According to the Telegraph, “North Korean scientists are people of some ability, but clearly they’re not doing it entirely in a vacuum,” said one government minister. The two main suspects, according to the Brits, are the Iranians and the Russians.

This is not exactly breaking news. For years, I have written about the Nork/Iranian joint nuclear venture, and a long version of the story written by Gordon Changappeared in 2015, suggesting that Iran had outsourced part of its nuclear program to Pyongyang:

The relationship between the two regimes has been long-lasting. Hundreds of North Koreans have worked at about 10 nuclear and missile facilities in Iran. There were so many nuclear and missile scientists, specialists, and technicians that they took over their own coastal resort there, according to Henry Sokolski, the proliferation maven, writing in 2003.

That’s fourteen years ago. The Iran/Nork collusion is similar to an Iran/China arrangement; there are oil-producing areas of Iran under complete Chinese control.

In other words, we’re talking about an international alliance of enemies of America. Iranian and Russian assistance to the Norks’ nuclear project are a big part of that alliance, as is Russian military action, most dramatically on the Middle Eastern battlefield. As Andrew Tabler tells us in suitably ominous tones, Russian-led and -supplied forces, in conjunction with Iranian forces and proxies, just crossed the Euphrates, bringing the enemy alliance closer to conflict with our guys:

In addition, the crossing brings Iran one step closer to its stated goal of creating a land bridge between Iraq and Syria, giving the Islamic Republic another avenue through which to place troops and weapons on the borders of U.S. allies. Tehran has steadily worked toward that goal even as Israel reached a de-escalation agreement in southwestern Syria designed to keep Hezbollah and other Iranian-supported militias a few kilometers away from the Golan Heights frontier.

Remember that the Russians entered the Syrian battlefield after the Iranians begged them for help. Without Russian air power and ground forces, Iran would likely have lost, Assad would have fallen, and the Middle East would be less threatening to our interests than it is today.

Those of a certain age may recall that President George W. Bush delivered a State of the Union address after 9/11, in which he spoke of an “Axis of Evil” comprised of Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and North Korea. Many were baffled at the Norks’ inclusion. Was it an effort at ethnic balance, or what? But we now see that W. was right; North Korea has been deeply involved in the enemy alliance all along.

Iraq has dropped out, although it is increasingly beholden to Tehran. It may yet return to full status in the Evil Axis. And, as President Trump duly noted in his UN speech, there’s also Venezuela, here in our own hemisphere.

The president did well, I thought, to stress that Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela all brutally oppress their own people, whom the Iranian, Korean and Venezuelan tyrants mortally fear. Indeed, Trump was just one small logical step away from the proper strategic conclusion: since those enemies of ours fear their own people almost as much as they fear American military power, we should actively, publicly, and creatively support the internal opposition in all three countries.

But although Trump’s words certainly point in that direction, he has neither called for us and our allies to support internal opposition, nor has he come right out and called for regime change. Why not?

First of all, because his top three national security officials—Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—oppose such a policy. They are more inclined to look for either a military “solution” or to impose crushing sanctions.

Second, none of the top policy makers sees the enemy alliance as a global threat. They think case-by-case, trying to devise separate “solutions” for each enemy.

I think they are wrong in both instances. I think Kim, Khamenei and Maduro, along with Putin and Assad, are right to fear their own people. And I am convinced that revolution is more likely to advance our interests than are military surges or economic sanctions.

Trump has promised to announce a new Middle East (mostly Iran) policy shortly. Some smart people think he’s going to call for support to the oppressed people. I would be thrilled if that happened, but doubt it will.

Hold your breath.

Syria declares truce before Trump-Putin talks

July 3, 2017

Syria declares truce before Trump-Putin talks, DEBKAfile, July 3, 2017

The picture beginning to unfold is that Washington and Moscow are making an effort to put in place the outline of a plan for deconfliction zones, in time for the first Trump-Putin encounter that is scheduled for later this week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg.

However, the two presidents may find pushing hard against them are Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Assad and Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Syrian and Iraqi fronts. This trio is in full momentum of an offensive to seize this prized, bitterly-contested border region of Syria, and convinced that the tide of this offensive is rolling in their favor.

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The Syrian army Monday July 3 suddenly declared a ceasefire in the fierce fighting with rebel forces in the southern districts on the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

This was just one of three unexpected events occurring in this embattled part of Syria in the last 24 hours:

1. The ceasefire Damascus said would be in force up until Wednesday, July 6 covers all the active battlefronts in the South: Daraa just 1 km from the Jordanian border: Quneitra – from which Syrian military mortars flew across into the Golan all last week; and Suwaydeh which lies east of Daraa.

Oddly enough, the ceasefire was not announced until Monday afternoon, although it went into effect Sunday midnight without notice.  According to our sources, the Russians most likely had to twist President Bashar Assad’s arm to overcome his refusal to order his army to stop fighting. And then too he would only accept a four-day pause before resuming combat.

2.  The announcement coincided with a meeting of Russian, Turkish and Iranian diplomats in the Kazakh capital of Astana to discuss the carving out of four de-escalation zones in Syria, one of which is southern Syria, where the ceasefire went into force.

3. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal that this step is the first visible sign of an initial understanding reached by American and Russian officers in secret talks Saturday, July 1, in Amman. They discussed the ceasefire in the South for paving the way for establishing a demilitarized zone in eastern Syria.

According to our sources, their understanding covered a 128km strip running from Tabqa in the north up to Karama in the Euphrates River valley. It is not yet clear whether the Syrian army and the pro-Iranian Iraqi and Hizballah forces fighting there will agree to halt their advance on the Syrian-Iraqi border, in compliance with the Russian-US understanding.

The picture beginning to unfold is that Washington and Moscow are making an effort to put in place the outline of a plan for deconfliction zones, in time for the first Trump-Putin encounter that is scheduled for later this week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg.

However, the two presidents may find pushing hard against them are Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Assad and Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Syrian and Iraqi fronts. This trio is in full momentum of an offensive to seize this prized, bitterly-contested border region of Syria, and convinced that the tide of this offensive is rolling in their favor.

Nikki Haley’s Comments on Iran Highlight Russian-Related Complications

June 29, 2017

Nikki Haley’s Comments on Iran Highlight Russian-Related Complications, Iran News Update, Edward Carney, June 29, 2017

On Tuesday, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations delivered testimony to the House panel on foreign operations, a subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee in the US House of Representatives. In that testimony, Haley addressed multiple issues relating to the Islamic Republic of Iran, thereby reasserting the Trump administration’s assertive policies toward the Iranian regime. By most accounts those policies are still emerging, but they have already come to include purposive outreach to other adversaries of the Islamic Republic and a program of expanded sanctions on matters such as Iran’s ballistic missile program.

However, those efforts to confront and contain the Islamic Republic are arguably complicated by other aspects of the Trump administration’s policy commitments, including a focus on domestic issues and an effort to improve relations between the US and Russia, which boasts close relations with Iran in the areas of trade and military cooperation, especially as it relates to the Syrian Civil War.

While the US supports moderate rebel groups fighting against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, the Iranians and Russians have been credited with turning the war in favor of Assad. Various Shiite militias are currently operating as proxies for Iran in that war, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is increasingly playing a direct role in the conflict. Meanwhile, Russia has been providing air support for pro-Assad ground operations since 2015.

Western commentators, including officials in the Trump administration, have variously accused Russia and Iran of ignoring or actively facilitating human rights abuses by the Assad regime, including an April chemical weapons attack that killed at least 80 people in a rebel-controlled civilian area.

As the Associated Press points out, Ambassador Haley’s comments to the House panel came shortly after the White House had issued a warning to Syria regarding alleged preparations for another such chemical attack. The article specified that Pentagon officials had confirmed the intelligence underlying that warning, involving particular movements at the same Syrian air base that had been used as the staging area for the previous chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said of Assad that “he and his military will pay a heavy price” if they follow through with apparent plans for another “mass murder attack using chemical weapons.” But the AP quoted Haley as saying that the administration’s remarks were not intended only for Assad, but also for Russia and Iran. Both of the Syrian allies joined in denying Assad’s responsibility for the attacks, with some officials insisting that the chemical weapons had originated in a rebel warehouse at the site of a conventional military airstrike.

The dispute over this issue and the subsequent US cruise missile strike on Shayrat air base can be seen as early examples of the escalation between Iranian allies and adversaries which is still going on to this day. In fact, Haley’s effort to fold Russia and Iran into a warning directed more explicitly against Syria is reminiscent of an incident earlier in June wherein a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said that a ballistic missile strike on eastern Syria had been intended largely as a warning to the US and Saudi Arabia.

Those two traditional adversaries of the Islamic Republic have been expanding relations under the Trump administration, sometimes with explicit reference to shared anxieties over expanding Iranian influence and meddling in the broader Middle East. President Trump’s visit to Riyadh in May for an Arab-US summit coincided with the signing of trade agreements that included 110 billion dollars in arms sales to the Arab Kingdom.

But at the same time that the White House is openly siding with Saudi Arabia and its regional allies against the Iranian regime, it does not appear to be giving up on the prospect of improved relations with Russia. In fact, the Western strategy for a political solution to the Syrian Civil War seems to presently involve the expectation that Russia can be encouraged to rein in the Islamic Republic and prevent it from further sabotaging ceasefire agreements.

Recent developments have cast doubt upon the practicality of this strategy however. As the US has taken a more direct role in defending rebel groups, even resorting to the shoot-down of at least two military controlled drones and a Syrian warplane, Russia has responded by threatening to target US aircraft and to halt the use of a hotline intended to prevent mid-air collisions between the multiple powers operating in the skies over Syria.

Haley’s comments on Tuesday were indicative of a roughly matching increase in American criticism of Russia. And this criticism was not limited to the issue of chemical weapons. Haley also explained that Russia’s position on the UN Security Council allowed it to stymie US efforts to sanctions Iran and hold it to account for ongoing misbehavior in matters including the development of the Iranian nuclear program.

“[The Iranians are] going to continue their nuclear capabilities and we just gave them a lot of money to do it with,” Haley said, referring to the 2015 nuclear agreement that President Trump has described as “the worst deal ever negotiated.” She went on to highlight concerns about Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, suggesting that nuclear weapons could find their way into the hands of terrorist groups at some point in the future, and that Russia would effectively prevent the US and its allies from doing anything to stop this.

“Yes, we would love to sanction Iran; and, yes we will continue to be loud about it; and, yes, Russia will veto it,” Haley said, according to the Washington Examiner.

But this is not to say that the Trump administration has positively brought an end to its strategy of attempting to improve relations with Russia. In fact, various reports suggest that this endeavor is even standing in the way of congressional legislation aimed at increasing national-level sanctions on both Iran and Russia. The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act passed the Senate two weeks ago by a margin of 98 to 2, but it was subsequently stalled in the House on procedural grounds, leading Democrats to argue that the House Republican leadership was trying to protect the president’s Russian agenda.

The prospects for resolution appeared to grow dimmer on Tuesday when the Washington Post reported that energy lobbyists were urging lawmakers to reevaluate the bill on the grounds that its restrictions on doing business with Russian companies could have a punishing effect on American firms and foreign firms doing business in the US. These objections could bolster the prospects of the House leadership sending the bill to various committees for review and markup – a process that could delay a final vote by months.

As it concerns Iran, the bill would include sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile activities and also extend all terrorism-related sanctions to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, for which Trump has urged designation as a foreign terrorist organization. This position has not changed, and it seems that neither has the Trump administration’s hardline approach to Iran policy. Some have suggested that the emerging policy is pointing in the direction of regime change, though this has not become a declared position as yet.

The Washington Examiner pointed out that one member of the House panel on foreign operations, Republican Representative Hal Rogers, had directly raised the prospect of regime change on Tuesday, asking Nikki Haley whether it is an option. The ambassador’s only response was “I don’t know.”

This coming Saturday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran will hold its annual Free Iran rally, which will include explicit calls for regime change driven by a domestic opposition movement within the Islamic Republic. The event is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates, plus hundreds of policymakers and experts from the US, Europe, and throughout the world. Notably, these dignitaries will include figures with close ties to the Trump administration, such as John Bolton, who served the second Bush administration in the position now occupied by Haley.

Assad and Putin are testing the US in Syria. Trump is answering.

June 19, 2017

Assad and Putin are testing the US in Syria. Trump is answering., Washington ExaminerTom Rogan, June 19, 2017

(Please see also, Missile strike on ISIS turning Iran into a world power. — DM)

The United States remains the world’s sole superpower. Realistic in our appraisal of national interests and prudent in their pursuit, our adversaries must never doubt our resolve.

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On Sunday, an F-18 fighter jet (almost certainly from the Mediterranean-deployed USS George H.W. Bush carrier strike group), downed a Syrian Air Force Su-22 fighter jet.

It was the right decision for both tactical and strategic reasons.

For a start, the Syrian jet was bombing United States allies (the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces) on the ground. It was warned, but did not retreat.

Yet it’s not just relevant who the Syrians were bombing, it’s also important where they were doing so. Because the Su-22 was striking targets in north-central Syria, proximate to the Islamic State capital, Raqqa, and a town and dam, Taqba.

That locale matters for two reasons.

First, because the Syrian axis (Bashar Assad, Russia, Iran, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and other associated Shiite militias) are determined to displace U.S./allied forces from that area. The Assad axis recognizes that if it secures Taqba, it can push east of the Euphrates river and degrade anti-regime forces operating there with U.S. protection. As I’ve explained, this area of northern Syria is crucial for the future of the Syrian civil war.

Second, had the U.S. allowed axis forces to displace Kurdish forces from the area, the axis would have been able to disrupt the operation to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State. While the axis argue that they support the U.S.-led effort to defeat the Islamic State, the reality is different.

After all, the axis have vested interests in allowing the Islamic State to survive in some form. While the Islamic State is indeed their enemy, its existence allows the axis to pretend that the choice in Syria is between Assad, and the Islamic State and al Qaeda. Russia, especially, uses this narrative to delegitimate and attack more-moderate U.S.-supported Syrian rebel groups. Ever notice that the Russians always claim they are bombing “terrorists” in Syria? The Islamic State gives them that excuse.

Absent the threat of the Islamic State, the axis powers know that the world would view the Syrian regime much more harshly. Absent international jihadist groups in Syria, the regime would no longer be able to claim “we’re the best of a bad bunch.”

Still, there’s a broader issue at stake here.

This latest axis push against U.S. interests is just the tip of the iceberg. As I noted recently, the axis is also threatening a major U.S. base in south-eastern Syria. Collectively, these efforts are designed to test the Trump administration’s commitment to U.S. interests in Syria. Put simply, by escalating their threat against the U.S., and by dangling the prospect of future U.S. casualties, the Assad axis wishes for the Trump administration to back away from its resistance to Assad’s regime. They believe that, as was the case with President Barack Obama’s red lines, the U.S. can ultimately be compelled to yield.

For that reason, the U.S. response on Sunday was the right one.

A two-person U.S. aircrew in an advanced multirole fighter met a Soviet-era aircraft and outmatched it.

The United States remains the world’s sole superpower. Realistic in our appraisal of national interests and prudent in their pursuit, our adversaries must never doubt our resolve.

Iran, Russia Boost Military Ties Amid U.S. Action In Syria

April 24, 2017

Iran, Russia Boost Military Ties Amid U.S. Action In Syria, Washington Free Beacon, , April 24, 2017

(Please see also, Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway. — DM)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (L) looks on after a joint press conference after their talks in Moscow on April 14, 2017./ AFP PHOTO  ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia can serve as a major military ally for Iran and help provide it with not just military capabilities, but nuclear technology. Iran and Russia inked several deals in the past years to build a series of new light water nuclear reactors across the Islamic Republic.

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Iran and Russia are moving closer together in their military alliance, working to boost ties and coordination in Syria and elsewhere in the region following the U.S. decision to launch a military strike in Syria, according to regional reports and experts.

Iran’s defense minister is slated to visit Moscow at the end of the month to discuss increased military ties, a move that is meant to deter U.S. action in the region and show a sign of increased force, according to regional experts who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Tehran-Moscow axis has been growing since the landmark Iran nuclear deal, with Russia making good on a series of weapons deliveries, including the Russian-made S-300 missile defense system. The two countries have been signing an additional number of military deals in recent months and that cooperation is likely to increase in light of the Trump administration’s decision to launch strikes against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is being backed by both Russia and Iran.

Iranian leaders have signaled in recent days that the alliance with Russia is a top priority going forward and that a number of new military deals are in the works.

“The visit by Iranian [President Hassan] Rouhani that took place on March 28 was another step toward developing extensive cooperation between Moscow and Tehran,” Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei was quoted in the country’s state-controlled press.

“We hope that we will witness even broader bilateral ties across all areas in the future,” Sanaei said during an event last week marking the Iranian Army Day.

Sanaei also celebrated the recent delivery by Russia of the S-300 missile system, which Tehran had been coveting for some time. The system is viewed by Iran as a major deterrence factor aimed at intimidating U.S. forces in the region.

The delivery of the S-300 system to Iran is a sign that Russia has an interest in bolstering Tehran’s military might, Sanaei said.

Since signing a massive military deal in 2015 with Russia, “important steps have been taken to strengthen bilateral relations in the area of defense,” Sanaei said. “One such step was the delivery of S-300 missile systems to Iran. This is an indicator of mutual trust in defense cooperation.”

As Iran’s defense minister gears up to visit Moscow, regional experts predict that the military ties between the countries will only increase as Assad comes under greater international pressure.

However, the alliance between the countries remains fragile and largely one of convenience.

“Russia and Iran have a similar goal in keeping Assad in power at all costs,” Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, told the Free Beacon. “However, how each perceives the end state in Syria and the other’s role in that future is one of the big questions in the relationship.”

In the short term, both Iran and Russia will aggressively work to “show a united front after America’s first strike on the Assad regime,” Zilberman said. “This is what we are seeing in the flurry of activity, but it is yet to be seen if anything of substance comes out of these talks.”

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at FDD, said that Russia views Iran as a chief counter to U.S. power in the region. The alliance between the countries is likely to strengthen as long as Moscow can use Tehran to offset American influence in the region.

“Russia can and will likely continue to use Iran instrumentally in its larger strategic competition with the United States,” Ben Taleblu said. “One wonders however, how the leadership of the Islamic Republic, which derided the late Shah of Iran for his closeness to the U.S. are able to justify—legally, politically, and even spiritually, the concessions they have made to befriend Russia. As a reminder, no country has taken more territory away from Iran and threatened its sovereignty in the past half millennia than Russia.”

Russia can serve as a major military ally for Iran and help provide it with not just military capabilities, but nuclear technology. Iran and Russia inked several deals in the past years to build a series of new light water nuclear reactors across the Islamic Republic.

“For the past two years Tehran has been drawing closer to Moscow,” Ben Taleblu explained. “Iran will look to Russia to help it drive the U.S. from the region, as well as support its nuclear development under the auspices of the [Iran deal], and engage in a highly selective modernization process for its military. Russia and China will likely become the two largest sources for arms as a UN-mandated arms ban is set to expire in 2020.”

The Real War in ‘Syria’ and the Strategy for Long-Term Victory

April 7, 2017

The Real War in ‘Syria’ and the Strategy for Long-Term Victory, PJ MediaMichael Ledeen, April 6, 2017

(Iran is ripe for regime change and the sooner the better. Please see also, Iran’s Elections: A Breaking Crisis? and All 15 Arab Summit resolutions blast Iran.– DM)

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (Reuters, RTX34BQA)

Punishing Assad would be satisfying, but we’ve got a big war to win. It’s smarter and more effective to go after the regime in Tehran. Not militarily, but rather supporting the tens of millions of Iranians who detest the Khamenei regime. Call it political warfare, or subversion, or democratic revolution. It worked against the Soviet Empire, and there are good reasons to believe it would work in Iran as well. Most Iranians, suffering under the failed regime, want a freely chosen government that will address their problems instead of dispatching their husbands and sons sent to the battlefield.

Regime change in Iran would be devastating to Assad and Putin, and its positive effects would be felt in North Africa and our own hemisphere, striking at the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in Latin America. And it would remind the tyrants that America’s greatest weapon is political. We are the most revolutionary country in the world, and we should act like it.

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Of course I loathe Assad. And of course I despise the Obamans for that phony red line and the subsequent retreat-and-bogus-Russian-deal. But just carrying out vengeance against Assad isn’t good enough. It fails to address the central problem of our time: the global anti-American alliance.

There is no Syria any more, and the enemy forces on the Middle Eastern battlefield come from various jihadi groups, and three regimes: Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus. We have to defeat them all, and other members of the enemy alliance, including Cuba and North Korea. Nikki Haley has it right: “The truth is that Assad, Russia and Iran have no interest in peace.”

Indeed, they are waging war, and the principal force driving that war is not Assad, but Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Khamenei’s killers have been alongside Assad’s from the very beginning, as the survival of the Syrian dictator is crucial to Iranian ambitions and quite likely also the survival of the Islamic Republic itself. Listen to Defense Secretary James Mattis a few days ago (from Reuters):

Asked about comments Mattis made in 2012 that the three primary threats the United States faced were “Iran, Iran, Iran,” Mattis told reporters that Iran’s behavior had not changed in the years since.

“At the time when I spoke about Iran I was a commander of US central command and that (Iran) was the primary exporter of terrorism, frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today,” Mattis said.

True, and Mattis’ characteristically strong language points the way to the best American action in the region, namely bringing down the Tehran regime. Lashing out at Assad isn’t nearly good enough. After all, what strategic objective would we accomplish by smashing, even removing, Assad? The Iranian and Russian fighters would still be there, as would the Islamist forces. The demands on our military would dramatically expand. We do not want to occupy a significant land mass in what used to be called Syria, nor do we seem to have sorted out what we want to do with the Turks and the Kurds.

Punishing Assad would be satisfying, but we’ve got a big war to win. It’s smarter and more effective to go after the regime in Tehran. Not militarily, but rather supporting the tens of millions of Iranians who detest the Khamenei regime. Call it political warfare, or subversion, or democratic revolution. It worked against the Soviet Empire, and there are good reasons to believe it would work in Iran as well. Most Iranians, suffering under the failed regime, want a freely chosen government that will address their problems instead of dispatching their husbands and sons sent to the battlefield.

Regime change in Iran would be devastating to Assad and Putin, and its positive effects would be felt in North Africa and our own hemisphere, striking at the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in Latin America. And it would remind the tyrants that America’s greatest weapon is political. We are the most revolutionary country in the world, and we should act like it.

Trump’s Greatest Deal

March 24, 2017

Trump’s Greatest Deal, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, March 24, 2017

(Before the Flynn debacle, Trump’s efforts to get Russia to divorce itself from Iran appeared to be proceeding well. Please see, Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked. Part b of the article is titled “Flynn telephone conversations.” Part c is titled “General Flynn, Russia and Iran.” Flynn’s departure from the Trump administration and America’s current Russophobia do not augur well for future success in pushing for the divorce. — DM)

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

If Trump can convince Russia to ditch Iran, then he has a chance of dismantling the regime in Tehran and so defusing the Iranian nuclear program and destroying Hezbollah without having to fight a major war.

The payoff to Russia for agreeing to such a deal would be significant. But if Trump were to adopt this policy, the US has a lot of bargaining chips that it can use to convince Putin to walk away from the ayatollahs long enough for the US to defuse the threat they pose to its interests.

The problem with the Russia strategy is that since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the Democrats, their allied media outlets and powerful forces in the US intelligence community have been beset by a Russia hysteria unseen since the Red scares in the 1920s and 1950s.

The fact that Obama bent over backward to cater to Putin’s interests for eight years has been pushed down the memory hole.

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What can be done about Iran? In Israel, a dispute is reportedly raging between the IDF and the Mossad about the greatest threat facing Israel. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot thinks that Hezbollah is the greatest threat facing Israel. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen thinks Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest danger facing the Jewish state.

While the media highlight the two men’s disagreement, the underlying truth about their concerns has been ignored.

Hezbollah and Iran’s nuclear program are two aspects of the same threat: the regime in Tehran.

Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of the regime. If the regime disappeared, Hezbollah would fall apart. As for the nuclear installations, in the hands of less fanatical leaders, they would represent a far less acute danger to global security.

So if you undermine the Iranian regime, you defeat Hezbollah and defuse the nuclear threat.

If you fail to deal with the regime in Tehran, both threats will continue to grow no matter what you do, until they become all but insurmountable.

So what can be done about Tehran? With each passing day we discover new ways Iran endangers Israel and the rest of the region.

This week we learned Iran has built underground weapons factories in Lebanon. The facilities are reportedly capable of building missiles, drones, small arms and ammunition. Their underground location protects them from aerial bombardment.

Then there is Hezbollah’s relationship to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

For more than a decade, the Americans have been selling themselves the implausible claim that the LAF is a responsible fighting force capable and willing to rein in Hezbollah. Never an easy claim – the LAF provided targeting information to Hezbollah missile crews attacking Israel in 2006 – after Hezbollah domesticated the Lebanese government in 2008, the claim became downright silly. And yet, over the past decade, the US has provided the LAF with weapons worth in excess of $1 billion. In 2016 alone the US gave the LAF jets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and missiles worth more than $220 million.

In recent months, showing that Iran no longer feels the need to hide its control over Lebanon, the LAF has openly stated that it is working hand in glove with Hezbollah.

Last November, Hezbollah showcased US M113 armored personnel carriers with roof-mounted Russian anti-aircraft guns, at a military parade in Syria. The next month the Americans gave the LAF a Hellfire missile-equipped Cessna aircraft with day and night targeting systems.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is a Hezbollah ally. So is Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun.

Last month President Aoun told Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, that Hezbollah serves “a complementary role to the Lebanese army.”

And yet the Americans insist that it continues to make sense – and to be lawful – to arm the LAF.

You can hardly blame them. Denial is an attractive option, given the alternatives.

For the past eight years, the Obama administration did everything in its power to empower Iran. To make Iran happy, Obama did nothing as hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed and millions more were forced to flee their homes by Iran and its puppet Bashar Assad.

Obama allowed Iran to take over the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military. He sat back as Iran’s Houthi proxy overthrew the pro-US regime in Yemen.

And of course, the crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy was his nuclear deal with the mullahs. Obama’s deal gives Iran an open path to a nuclear arsenal in a bit more than a decade and enriches the regime beyond Ayatollah Khamenei’s wildest dreams.

Obama empowered Iran at the expense of the US’s Sunni allies and Israel, and indeed, at the expense of the US’s own superpower status in the region, to enable the former president to withdraw the US from the Middle East.

Power of course, doesn’t suffer a vacuum, and the one that Obama created was quickly filled.

For decades, Russia has been Iran’s major arms supplier. It has assisted Iran with its nuclear program and with its ballistic missile program. Russia serves as Iran’s loyal protector at the UN Security Council.

But for all the help it provided Tehran through the years, Moscow never presented itself as Iran’s military defender.

That all changed in September 2015. Two months after Obama cut his nuclear deal with the ayatollahs, Russia deployed its forces to Syria on behalf of Iran and its Syrian and Lebanese proxies.

In so doing, Russia became the leading member and the protector of the Iranian axis.

Russia’s deployment of forces had an immediate impact not only on the war in Syria, but on the regional power balance as a whole. With Russia serving as the air force for Iran and its Syrian and Hezbollah proxies, the Assad regime’s chances of survival increased dramatically. So did Iran’s prospects for regional hegemony.

For Obama, this situation was not without its advantages.

In his final year in office, Obama’s greatest concern was ensuring that his nuclear deal with Iran would outlive his presidency. Russia’s deployment in Syria as the protector of Iran and its proxies was a means of achieving this end.

Russia’s alliance with Iran made attacking Iran’s nuclear program or its Hezbollah proxy a much more dangerous prospect than it had been before.

After all, in 2006, Russia supported Iran and Hezbollah in their war against Israel. But Russia’s support for Iran and its Lebanese legion didn’t diminish Israel’s operational freedom. Israel was able to wage war without any fear that its operations would place it in a direct confrontation with the Russian military.

This changed in September 2015.

The first person to grasp the strategic implications of the Russian move was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu recognized that with Russian forces on the ground in Syria, the only way for Israel to take even remedial measures to protect itself from Iran and its proxies was to drive a wedge between President Vladimir Putin and the ayatollahs wide enough to enable Israel to continue its raids against weapons convoys to Hezbollah and other targets without risking a confrontation with Russia. This is the reason that Netanyahu boarded a flight to Moscow to speak to Putin almost immediately after the Russian leader deployed his forces to Syria.

Israel’s ability to continue to strike targets in Syria, whether along the border on the Golan Heights or deep within Syrian territory, is a function of Netanyahu’s success in convincing Putin to limit his commitment to his Iranian allies.

Since President Donald Trump entered the White House, Iran has been his most urgent foreign policy challenge. Unlike Obama, Trump recognizes that Iran’s nuclear program and its threats to US economic and strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and the Levant cannot be wished away.

And so he has decided to deal with Iran.

The question is, what is he supposed to do? Trump has three basic options.

He can cut a deal with Russia. He can act against Iran without cutting a deal with Russia. And he can do nothing, or anemically maintain Obama’s pro-Iran policies.

The first option has the greatest potential strategic payoff. If Trump can convince Russia to ditch Iran, then he has a chance of dismantling the regime in Tehran and so defusing the Iranian nuclear program and destroying Hezbollah without having to fight a major war.

The payoff to Russia for agreeing to such a deal would be significant. But if Trump were to adopt this policy, the US has a lot of bargaining chips that it can use to convince Putin to walk away from the ayatollahs long enough for the US to defuse the threat they pose to its interests.

The problem with the Russia strategy is that since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the Democrats, their allied media outlets and powerful forces in the US intelligence community have been beset by a Russia hysteria unseen since the Red scares in the 1920s and 1950s.

The fact that Obama bent over backward to cater to Putin’s interests for eight years has been pushed down the memory hole.

Also ignored is the fact that during her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton approved deals with the Russians that were arguably antithetical to US interests while the Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars in contributions from Russian businessmen and companies closely allied with Putin.

Since November 8, the Democrats and their clapping seals in the media and allies in the US intelligence community have banged the war drums against Russia, accusing Trump and his advisers of serving as Russian patsies at best, and Russian agents at worst.

In this climate, it would be politically costly for Trump to implement a Russian-based strategy for dismantling the Iranian threat.

This brings us to the second option, which is to confront Iran and Russia. Under this option, US action against Iran could easily cause hostilities to break out between the US and Russia. It goes without saying that the political fallout from making a deal with Russia would be nothing compared to the political consequences if Trump were to take the US down a path that led to war with Russia.

Obviously, the economic and human costs of such a confrontation would be prohibitive regardless of the political consequences.

This leaves us with the final option of doing nothing, or anemically continuing to implement Obama’s policies, as the Americans are doing today.

Although tempting, the hard truth is that this is the most dangerous policy of all.

You need only look to North Korea to understand why this is so.

Seemingly on a daily basis, Pyongyang threatens to nuke America. And the US has no good options for dealing with the threat.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged during his recent trip to Asia, decades of US diplomacy regarding North Korea’s nuclear program did nothing to diminish or delay the threat.

North Korea has been able to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles while threatening the US with destruction because North Korea enjoys the protection of China. If not for the Chinese, the US would long ago have dealt a death blow to the regime.

Israel has moved Russia as far away from Iran as it can on its own. It is enough to stop convoys of North Korean weapons from crossing into Lebanon.

But it isn’t enough to cause serious harm to Tehran or its clients.

The only government that can do that is the American government.

Trump built his career by mastering the art of deal making. And he recognized that Obama’s deal with Iran is not the masterpiece Obama and his allies claim but a catastrophe.

The Iran deal Trump needs to make with the Russians is clear. The only question is whether he is willing to pay the political price it requires.

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran

March 9, 2017

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran, Israel Hayom, Ariel Bolstein, March 9, 2017

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin in Moscow Thursday takes place at an interesting time.

Russia, which has exhausted its military moves in Syria, is searching for a future strategy that will allow it to integrate into the world of U.S. President Donald Trump. Russia has paid a high price for its confrontation with the West. True, as a result of the United States’ geopolitical retreat under former U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian influence has grown on a few fronts, primarily in the Middle East, but this achievement is not worth much without American recognition of Russia’s new-old status as a world power. The changing of the guard in Washington provided Moscow with a unique opportunity to turn the page on its relationship with the West, but the significance of such a change would also mean concessions on its part.

It seems that Russia may meet Trump halfway on the Iranian issue. Russia did not have much in common with the country of Islamic revolution from the outset, and the collaboration between them stems more from a desire on the part of both countries to challenge the existing world order. Indications of Russia’s openness to the idea of turning its back on Iran have been noted on Russian state television. These channels are full of talk shows that focus on current events, and the variety of voices heard on them is effectively controlled by authorities. In recent weeks, these programs have raised the possibility of placing Iran on the sacrificial altar between Moscow and Washington, and this was received with understanding by a majority of participants. One must remember that Putin and as a result the Russian public are determined to witness Russia’s inclusion in the select club of world powers, but they have no interest in dragging others who also claim the crown along with them, and certainly not Iran.

From Israel’s perspective, Netanyahu is now the only statesman to enjoy the trust of and an unprecedented friendship with both the White House and the Kremlin. Israel has succeeded in preserving its interests in the tempest of upheaval in the Middle East, in large part due to the relationship Netanyahu has forged with Putin. The Russians have been forced to honor Israel’s freedom of action in the region and have come to understand full well Israel’s determination to act whenever Israeli considerations require that it do so.

In the Trump era, Israel’s stock has risen even more in the eyes of the Russians. Moscow could not help but notice the special affinity Trump has shown toward Netanyahu and the feelings of solidarity they share. Israel is clearly not operating within a vacuum — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia after Netanyahu, and later in the month, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will do the same — but those in the Kremlin must understand the differences in influence among these three figures.

The possible resolution in Syria and its de facto division into regions of influence underscores the need to stop the expansion and strengthening of Iran. Russia needs to understand that Hezbollah’s murderousness and lack of humanity is no different from that of the Sunni terrorists it so mercilessly bombed. There should be one law for the Islamic State, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — formerly Nusra Front — and Hezbollah. If Russia operates according to this principle, its standing and the security of the region will vastly improve.