Two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in person that Israel will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria that threatens Israeli interests.
Netanyahu also stated that Israel is prepared to take action in Syria to curb the alleged threat.
At the time, Putin did not respond specifically to Israel’s issue with Iran. This provided some uncertainty regarding Russia’s position on the current conflict given Russia views Iran as a strategic ally.
At the same time, however, Russia would likely not want to be dragged into a regional spat between Israel and the Islamic Republic.
However, according to the Washington Examiner, a conservative news outlet, Russia has responded by warning Israel not to authorize any attack on Iranian military positions in Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov allegedly told reporters:
“If anyone in the Middle East or [an]other part of the world plans to violate international law by undermining any other country’s sovereignty or territorial integrity, including any country in the Middle East or North Africa, this would be condemned.”
He also added:
“[R]egarding whatever area of cooperation between Iran and Syria, my position is that if their cooperation in whichever field does not violate the basic provisions of international law, it should not be cause for question.”
This line of thinking on Russia’s part was confirmed by the Times of Israel in a report claiming that even U.S. officials have agreed to allow Iranian-backed militias to take up positions in Syria less than ten kilometers from the Golan Heights region, which is technically under Israeli control.
Under this arrangement, Russian observers are to police the truce zones, and this has rattled Israeli officials. A Russian military presence in the area may limit its ability to strike pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian forces inside Syrian territory.
There are also further reports of Russia stationing its S-400 anti-missile defense system near an Iranian arms factory inside Syria, which allegedly provides Hezbollah with weapons that could be used against Israel.
In response to fears of an increased and protected Iranian presence, a senior Israeli official came forward days ago to state that if Iran expands in Syria, Israel will respond by striking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s palaces.
This may be the ultimate aim of the U.S. war establishment. If the U.S. can provoke a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, the rationale to intervene more heavily to counter both Iran and Syria will be that much more concrete, particularly if there are concerns about protecting an American ally.
A recent survey found the majority of Americans would support a nuclear strike on Iran, killing 2 million civilians, if Iran attacked the U.S. military first through conventional warfare. In the same vein, the majority of Americans may also feel that such a military option would be justified if the U.S. were acting to defend an American ally.
This hypothetical scenario would at least explain America’s decision to allow Iranian-backed troops so close to Israel’s border given the current Trump administration is incredibly anti-Iranian.
However, Russia’s military presence and the deployment of its defense systems may ultimately complicate this scenario for both the U.S. and Israel, which may sooner or later have to admit that they have realistically lost the war in Syria.