Israel tries to balance Iran strategy between Trump and Putin

Israel’s leaders stressed to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu the importance of thwarting Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. But can’t expect much from Moscow – any more than Washington.  

Visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu heard Tuesday, Oct. 17, from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman that Israel would not stand for Iran and Hizballah making Syria their forward operational base against Israel, and would act to prevent their military entrenchment along the Syrian-Israeli border.

This was not news to the Russian minister, on his first visit to Israel since his appointment five years ago. The Kremlin has heard this mantra time and time and again and the visitor must have wondered what his Israeli hosts expected him to do. Both Shoigu and his boss, President Vladimir Putin, would also prefer not to see Iran dug deep militarily in Syria. So oddly enough, Moscow and Jerusalem could find a sliver of common ground for cooperating in both Syria and Iraq, but for their different viewpoints. While the Russians are practical enough to live with a strong Iranian military presence in Syria so long as it serves their interests, Israel is flatly against Iran or its proxies’ proximity to its borders as a grave peril to its national security.

The Israeli defense minister is due to fly to Washington Wednesday, Oct. 18, for talks with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabat goes on ahead to meet his US counterpart Gen. H.R. McMaster.
However, as seen from Moscow – and possibly Jerusalem too – the Trump administration is more to blame than any other actor operating in the Middle East for Iran’s deepening grip on Syria, US actions starkly contradicting the president’s fiery rhetoric against the Islamic Republic and all its actions.

Since late September, the US has been drawing down most of its positions in eastern Syria, opening the door for Hizballah to walk in and for pro-Iranian Iraqi militias to take control of the Syrian-Iraqi border. This has made Tehran the strategic gift of its coveted land bridge to the Mediterranean.

Shoigu arrived in Tel Aviv on the day, Monday, Oct. 16, on which pro-Iranian militias under the command of a Revolutionary Guards general, Qassem Soleimani, swept the Iraqi oil center of Kirkuk out of the hands of America’s allies, the Kurdish Peshmerga, a leading light in the US-led coalition for fighting the Islamic State.

If Trump meant what he said about beating down the Revolutionary Guards, why did he not stop them from taking Kirkuk?

In contrast to the Kirkuk debacle, the US-backed SDF Syrian Kurdish-Arab force said Tuesday that the Islamic State’s Syrian capital of Raqqa had fallen after a bitter four-month battle. The Kurdish YPG militia raised its flag over the municipal stadium and chanted victory slogans from vehicles driving through the streets.

DEBKAfile’s sources report that when word of the victory reached the White House, Brett McGurk, President Trump’s special envoy for the global coalition versus ISIS, set out from Washington to Raqqa

But that operation was the exception – not the rule. In Iraq, Washington stood by as the Revolutionary Guards called the shots against the Kurds.

For weeks, Moscow has been asking Washington to explain what it is up to on the Syrian and Iraqi warfronts and has come up empty. Israeli visitors are unlikely to fare much better when they put the same question to top Trump administration officials, even taking into account the profound difference in the relationship between Jerusalem and Washington compared with Moscow and Jerusalem.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 thoughts on “Israel tries to balance Iran strategy between Trump and Putin

  • Oct 18, 2017 @ 0:08 at 0:08

    There are a few things wrong with the article. The Kurds have agreed to move back to pre-Mosul borders. The idea that the Kurds could just take Kirkuk without reaching some agreement on the oil and borders puts the US in a bad position. This should be clear to Debka. The US warned Iraq not to use any air power against the Kurds and shortly after fighting Sunday night Iraq refused to order their army into battle, again, under pressure from the US. And where are the 20,000 the Arab League promised to help the Kurds? I’m not sure why Debka is deflecting to Trump. Was an Israeli F-35 really hit by a bird or are there numerous issues going on that would make a major entry into Kurdstan by the US a much more complex situation effecting the Israel?

    • Oct 18, 2017 @ 2:02 at 2:02

      You’re emotional outburst at the end ruined any possible efficacy of your post. Not only entirely unrelated information, but also and entirely pedestrian incident with new equipment

    • Oct 18, 2017 @ 2:21 at 2:21

      Trump lost all credibility when 2 days after declaring war on Iran’s IRGC, he ignorantly talked essentially about US interest in holding on to their success with Iraq, no less than the Kurds. Since without the Kurds and other Sunni Arabs, Iraq is essentially a Shiite state – as the leadership of the battle against the Kurds by IRGC head Qassem Soleimani & Hashd Al Shaabi forces proves – Trump has repeated once again the disconnected US’s error of trying to hold on to everything they invested in, even when it’s clear that you must cut losses and strengthen gains. So, once again, America – even under Trump and his essentially correct direction – come out in practice, as totally clueless…

  • Oct 18, 2017 @ 4:51 at 4:51

    We cannot predict the future, but we may speculate. Each possibility can be assigned a subjective probability to be modified as facts on the ground change.

    1. America will watch as the Kurds fold and are slaughtered – 10%
    2. America will continue preventing the Kurds from being overrun by limiting the options of the Iraqis. This approach will place Iraq and Iran at loggerheads. 25%
    3. America will use the Kurds to bring Iran to the negotiating table to modify the JCPOA. Iran will have to choose progress on the ground against a potentially independent Kurdistan and a continuation of cheating on the JCPOA and UN resolutions regarding missile progress. 25%
    4. America will slaughter the IRGC and its allies on the ground as they advance on the ground no matter what position Iran takes toward negotiations. 25%
    5. America will slaughter the IRGC on the ground whether they advance against the Kurds or not. 10%

    Given that Trump reacts to actions taken by others (Syrian use of chemical weapons, North Korean nuclear testing and missile launches, Iranian violations of the JCPOA, etc.), he will not initiate war, but will act to minimize damage to US interests. His withdrawal from Syria is probably strategic, since a main US goal would be to avoid military conflict with Russia. US hostility towards Russia severely limits future joint actions. It would seem then that all depends on the flexibility of the Iranians. Should they stand down in Syria and Kurdistan and agree to additional limitations on their arms development, then America will do nothing.

    • Oct 18, 2017 @ 12:07 at 12:07

      Quote from jlevyellow’s previous post:

      ” It would seem then that all depends on the flexibility of the Iranians. Should they stand down in Syria and Kurdistan and agree to additional limitations on their arms development, then America will do nothing.”

      What would be the “subjective probability” for that scenario?
      Likely 0%———–right?

Comments are closed.