The Challenge of Iran in Russia-Dominated Syria

(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Zvi Magen, Udi Dekel, and Sima Shine - The central issue discussed at the Aug. 23 meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin in Sochi was growing Iranian involvement in Syria and the role that Russia is assigning to Iran in shaping the future political arrangement there. At the same time, there was an Israeli effort to persuade the U.S. to refrain from completely abandoning the Syrian arena to Russia, as most areas controlled by the Islamic State that were freed by the U.S. have been seized by Iran and its proxies. Moscow estimates that Iranian conduct in Syria and the resulting Israeli concerns may ultimately lead to Israeli military action, which could undermine the shaky foundations of the Assad regime. Yet in the Syrian arena there is currently no element, including Iran, that wants escalation that could lead to war with Israel, something that could severely damage the Iranian project in Syria. Israel must not allow the consolidation of Iranian influence in Syria for the long term, expanding the area of friction between Israel and Iran and its proxies. Consequently, Israel's struggle against Iran's growing influence in Syria will be determined by the ability of both Iran and Israel to exercise effective levers of influence on Russia. Israel should treat Russia's promises with caution, and improve its readiness to use force wisely and with a low signature against Iran's establishing itself in Syria. Zvi Magen is a former Israeli ambassador to Russia. Udi Dekel, managing director of INSS, was head of the Strategic Planning Division in the IDF General Staff. Sima Shine was head of the Mossad's research division.

2017-09-04 00:00:00

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