If there is anyone looking for proof of common interests between Israel, Iran and Russia after the nuclear deal was reached between Iran and the global superpowers, one need only look at the Israeli evaluation of the intensified Iranian and Russian involvement in Syria. The Iranian and Russian discourse merged with the Israeli discourse in all matters related to Syria. Iran and Russia are justifying their increased intervention in Syria on the grounds that the world, especially Europe, would benefit from weakening the Sunni Islamic groups that are labelled “terrorist groups”. This would gain support for the Iranian and Russian actions. This same discourse is being promoted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has recently been keen on telling the Europeans that Israel actually acts as Europe’s protective shield against extremist Sunni Islam.
Hence, one would notice that contrary to the usual discourse, there have been many signs of Israel’s approval of Russia and Iran intensifying their roles in Syria, especially Tehran and Moscow’s insistence on helping the regime to maintain its control over the western coastal areas with a large Alawite population. According to Israeli assessments, the Iranian-Russian commitment to keep the coastal areas in the hands of the regime means the that the Israeli dream of dividing Syria into sectarian, doctrinal and ethnic mini-states will be achieved, provided that the first mini-state to be formed is an Alawite mini-state. Achieving such mini-states will forever eliminate Syria from the regional balances of power, freeing up Israel to face other challenges.
At the same time, Israelis are also celebrating because Israel will benefit the most from the Russian-Iranian partnership in the war against Sunni groups. This is because Tel Aviv fears the consequences of these groups’ control over Syria in the wake of the fall of the Syrian regime. Therefore, there is actually an indirect partnership between Iran, Russia, and Israel. On the other hand, if there is anyone concerned with monitoring the disappointments suffered by the Syrian people, all they need to do is listen to the assessments of the Israeli intelligence agency regarding the motives and nature of the increased Iranian and Russian support for Al-Assad’s regime. According to Israeli assessments, the Russians and Iranians decided to do all they could to maintain the regime’s presence and control in the coastal areas with a large Alawite population, since they are areas in which Tehran and Moscow have vital influence. It is worth noting that all the strategic assessment forums in Tel Aviv agreed that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to rule out any solution to the Syrian problem that is not based on keeping Assad’s regime. This is because keeping the regime would provide the environment necessary to guarantee Russia’s interests.
While none of the forces that claim they are “friendly” to the Syrian people have provided any qualitative weapons that would make even the slightest change in the balance of power, the Israelis have monitored the increase in the level of military aid provided by Russia specifically to Al-Assad and their efforts to effectively participate in defending the regime. Israeli estimates indicate that the Russians want to send a message to the armed Syrian opposition forces that if these forces target the coastal areas with high Alawite populations, then they will face a direct Russian military response since these areas are vital areas of interest and power for Russia.
The Israelis have also pointed out that the Russian political support for Al-Assad’s regime is no less significant than military intervention, as Putin seems keen on convincing anyone who will listen that Bashar Al-Assad is an important part of the solution and is not part of the problem. Israel believes that Russia learned its lesson from the first wave of the Arab Spring and is trying to send a message to the Arab regimes by means of its increased support of the Assad regime saying that they can be relied on and that Russia will not abandon any regime it is allied with, unlike the US. However, even the Israelis admit that the Russians are interested in utilising the fear of “Islamic terrorism” in order to put Russia in the centre of the international arena as an important player that cannot be bypassed, by highlighting its “pioneering” role in the war against Sunni groups. According to strategic assessments in Tel Aviv, the Russians are interested in turning Syria into part of the struggle to lead the world, making Syria an item to be sold and purchased in the global auction.
All that I have mentioned in this article suggests the need for the Arab states and Turkey to intensify and reinforce their support of the Syrian revolutionary forces. The success of the Iranian-Russian strategy that has been implicitly supported by Israel would mean that the threat to the Arab national security has grown in an unprecedented manner.
Translated from Assabeel, 15 September 2016
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.