Netanyahu Attends Victory Day Celebration in Russia, But Iran is the Real Focus

In Partnerships, Politics by Micha Gefen

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It may appear strange that Prime Minister Netanyahu would spend time at a Victory Day celebration in Russia less than a day after President Donald Trump took the United States out of the JCPOA otherwise known as the Iranian nuclear deal. With the Israel’s northern border on high alert for Iranian reprisals after the IAF destroyed a cache of weapons last night, Netanyahu could of skipped the Victory Day celebration, even if he was the honored guest.

Yet, in the fast-moving events of the Middle East, attending the celebration is of utmost importance. “I am now leaving for an important meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Prime Minister said. “The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so. In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination between the Russian military.”

Coordination is the key.  With war on the horizon, Israel must ensure that any flare up does not unintentionally kill Russian soldiers on the ground in Syria.  If that happens then Putin will take a far different approach to Israel.

Does Putin Want Iran Pushed Back?

Although it appears Putin is an ally of Iran, historically this has not been so.  With the Mullahs taking advantage of the Syrian chaos to take up forward positions opposite Israel, the Iranian regime has complicated Putin’s strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean.  While not enthused by Trump’s bravado against Iran, Putin has grown impatient with the Shiite movements in the region.  Iran and Russia have diverging interests when it comes to Syria.

Putin’s Syria entanglement has been merely to ensure  he holds onto two key Russian bases in northwestern Syria along with creating a blocking strategy. In the early stage of Russian involvement he needed foot soldiers to consolidate Assad’s regime.  The Iranians and Hezbollah happily volunteered.

Netanyahu’s mission in Russia is twofold.  He must ensure Putin that Israel’s increased attacks on Iranian positions in Syria are meant to push Iran out, not harm Moscow’s interests and second Netanyahu is acting as a sort of intermediary between Presidents Trump and Putin.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the following to President Putin before their meeting: “I very much appreciate the opportunity to discuss regional problems with you, the attempts as you put it, to resolve the crises, to lift the threats in a prudent and responsible manner.”

The events of the next few weeks will flow from actions undertaken by Israel and the USA in the next few days as well as the agreements or the lack there of between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin.

 


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