Friday, May 11, 2018

Israel, Russia, and the Iran deal

American commentators and news junkies these days are too often trying to squeeze every bit of news about Russia into their preferred model of the Trump-Russia scandal.

But things to happen outside of America's borders. Russia has become a more important player in the Middle East in the last 10 years, something that in itself doesn't bother me. Given the disasters the US role in the Middle East has created over the past 20 years or so, Russian involvement there is about as bad a move as Russia's worst critics would wish on it.

Mark Katz explains the current balance of interests between Russia and Israel in Putin And Netanyahu: Converging Interests? LobeLog 05/11/2018. He sums it up this way:
Although Putin’s and Netanyahu’s interests with regard to Syria may be convergent, they are not identical. Putin wants Iran to remain in Syria as a junior partner in propping up the Assad regime but not acting provocatively otherwise. Netanyahu not only wants Iran out of Syria, but may even join U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and other hawks in seeking regime change in Tehran. If so, the Putin-Netanyahu tactical alliance will not last.
He describes the conflicting interests between Iran and Russia this way:
Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria have the advantage of weakening Iran vis-à-vis Russia inside Syria without Moscow having to confront Tehran directly. And Tehran does have ambitions in Syria that Moscow does not share. For Tehran, preserving the Assad regime is not just an end in itself, but a means for Iran to better support Hezbollah in Lebanon in its conflict with Israel. Russia, by contrast, has strong economic and security ties to Israel that it wants to continue and expand. Moscow does not want Iran to disturb this, or create sufficient problems for Israel that the U.S. gets back into the Syrian conflict in Israel’s defense.
Unlike our President's imagination of the world, foreign policy is much more shades of gray and messy compromises than it is about win/lose situations or conflicts between Good and Evil.

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