Israel’s Approach to Enhanced Russia-Iran Relations Unclear Until After Elections
Russia’s ties to Iran complicate Israel’s cooperation with Russia, but it is important that Israel maintain that relationship, expert says
Russia’s use of Iranian-made drones against Ukraine indicates a thriving cooperation between Teheran and Moscow, and represents a complication for Israel. However, Israel’s approach to the new relationship is yet to be defined as the country heads to elections.
Russo-Iranian military cooperation is not new, and has its roots in the ‘70s and ‘80s, especially after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
“Russia helped Iran build many weapon systems, missiles and other capabilities. Those two countries have strategic ties and have performed maritime, naval and aerial drills, with and without the Chinese,” Dr. Eyal Pinko, a retired Israeli naval commander and an expert in intelligence, cybersecurity and national security, told The Media Line.
In recent years, there have been some disputes between the countries due to their clashing interest in Syria, where they both have presence and influence, leading to a reduction in the military cooperation between them, he explained.
However, now Russia has requested Iran’s help “because of its lack of ammunition, missiles and rockets, and due to its poor performance in Ukraine. Now, both countries have revived the strategic ties that were a little bit shaky because of Syria,” Pinko added.
Dr. Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, said that forging new ties with Russia was a strategic decision for Iran as well.
What Iran is doing through this cooperation is strengthening its relations with both Russia and China. Iran believes that better relations with Russia also will result in better relations with China, he explained.
Rabi told The Media Line that, due to the current situation in Iran in which there currently is no nuclear deal, international sanctions are still in place, and massive protests continue to rock the country, “the regime must think that this is the right time for Iran to create that kind of alignment” with Russia and China.
In the meantime, he said, “they sent some drones to Russia to be used in order to attack Ukraine and, while doing that, Iran actually joined the pariah.”
The American navy, which was the was the strongest in the region, left and the Russian navy came to the arena,. They are really the superpower in this arena, and we need them to secure the freedom of navigation, and to balance what is happening in Syria and Lebanon.
Regardless of the reasons for the enhancement of Russian-Iranian ties, Pinko believes that they are harmful for Israel.
He explains that the importance of the Russian presence in the Middle East increased, especially after the United States’ presence decreased.
“The American Navy, which was the strongest in the region, left and the Russian navy came to the arena,” he said. “They are really the superpower in this arena, and we need them to secure the freedom of navigation, and to balance what is happening in Syria and Lebanon.”
Pinko stressed that the stronger the ties between Russia and Iran, the less successful the cooperation between Israel and Russia will be. “For us, it is important to maintain those relations with Russia,” he said.
Rabi believes that, in addition to influencing the cooperation between Israel and Russia in the Middle East, stronger ties between Moscow and Teheran could be both harmful and beneficial for Jerusalem.
On one hand, he said, “we are still worried when it comes to those drones and lethal means that Iran is using because this is an industry that the Iranians are developing.”
Even if this is not actually an existential threat, explains Rabi, Israel still must follow carefully what is going on when it comes to Iran’s development of drones and other military devices, which could one day be used against Israel.
On the other hand, he added, this could be beneficial for Israel “because maybe now Europe and the United States will learn what sort of regime there is in Iran, and maybe help out the protesters from within, because Iran has now become a global problem.”
We are still worried when it comes to those drones and lethal means that Iran is using, because this is an industry that the Iranians are developing
Pinko believes that the approach that Israel will have toward this new situation of enhanced ties between Iran and Russia is still unclear since the country is just one week away from parliamentary elections.
He added that Prime Minister Yair Lapid, during his caretaker administration, both criticized the Russians and did not provide military help to Ukraine.
“The Israeli policies depend on the government and on the person that will be prime minister. I think that it is a very important riddle to solve, and I hope that in the next two months we will know in which direction will Israel move,” he said.
That is why, Pinko believes, not providing weapons for Ukraine for now “was a very smart move.” He says that Israel needs to maintain quiet diplomatic ties with Russia, “especially in these times when the political system in Israel is totally unstable.”