Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during their meeting in Sochi, Russia, Oct 22, 2021. (REUTERS)

November 4, 2021

With the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad seemingly being reaccepted into the Arab world, Israel and Russia are seeking to remove Iran and its proxy Hezbollah from the county.
Israel has been working on the difficult task of destroying Tehran’s dreams of regional hegemony and a forward base against the Jewish state for close to a decade through its “Campaign between the Wars” (CBW, or the Hebrew acronym mabam) with hundreds of airstrikes in Syria.
Most recently, it was accused of using a surface-to-surface, non-line-of-sight missile to strike Iranian targets outside Damascus in a rare daytime attack. That strike came as Russia was accused of striking some 20 opposition targets in Idlib province.
Israel does not comment on most alleged strikes, but it has been accused of carrying out strikes around Damascus and deep inside Syrian territory, including in northern Syria near the Turkish border and the Bukamal region near the Syrian-Iraqi border.
Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015 on the side of Assad, and Moscow is seen as the main power to speak with when Israel wants to carry out strikes in the country.
Although Israel and Russia have been using a deconfliction mechanism to avoid an unwanted conflict, the Russians on the ground in Syria are not the ones sitting in Moscow speaking with the Israelis.
Russia has allowed Israel to maintain its freedom of operation over Syria, as long as it does not endanger their forces.
But Moscow has recently begun reporting and condemning alleged Israeli airstrikes. In June, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said the IAF airstrikes were “more and more frequent” and that they “complicate efforts to stabilize the situation in Syria and the region.”
In Russia’s opinion, he said, “the Syrian conflict has no military solution.”
An IAF senior officer brushed off those reports, recently telling reporters there have been no changes to the deconfliction mechanism. The IAF continues to have freedom of action over Syria, he said.
Nevertheless, Israel’s northern border can become much more complicated in coming years with more advanced Iranian air-defense systems being deployed to Syria, he added.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia. It was their first meeting since Bennett entered office.
According to Construction and Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who acted as the translator, their meeting was exceptionally warm. Elkin, who was a translator for meetings between Putin and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the past decade, said the two leaders agreed that Israel’s policy toward Syria, including airstrikes, would continue.
The IAF senior officer said he had not been updated on the meeting between Bennett and Putin, but that is likely where the leaders agreed to work to remove Iran from Syria.
Israel understands that while the US remains its strongest ally, Russia is the key influencer in the Middle East, and Assad will listen to Moscow when he wants to gain anything from the outside world.
A larger international effort is being made to reach a settlement in Syria that would allow the war-torn country to begin rebuilding. Moscow understands that means expelling all foreign forces, especially Iran and its proxies Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias.
For the first time since the civil war erupted more than a decade ago, Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman, have agreed to reopen their embassies in Syria, and Jordan reopened its border crossing.
Removing Iran from the region has been a central focus of Israel’s military, and while Russia has been turning a blind eye to Iran’s actions in Syria, it has had enough.
For Israel, it’s a matter of life and death. For Russia, it’s a matter of prestige and sole influence over Assad.
The question is: Will Assad listen to Putin and choose Russian influence over Tehran? Or will he decide to stay in Iran’s camp and allow the Islamic Republic to entrench its forces and weapons even further for a future war with Israel?
The Jerusalem Post 

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.