Russia-Iran Axis: An Existential Threat to Israel’s Security—A Wakeup Call
By Yigal Carmon
October 24, 2017
The Iranian forces and Iran-supported militias are
expanding in Syria and approaching the Israeli border. This is happening with
the full support and facilitation of Russia, even though Russia knows very well
that Iran's aim is to fight the State of Israel and eradicate it, and that its
expansion in Syria will significantly advance that aim. While Russian Foreign
Minister Lavrov calls Israel's demand that the Iranians maintain a distance of
40 km from its border "not realistic" – after Iran has come 2,000 km
to reach this point – Russian Defense Minister Shoygu has the temerity to come
to Israel and entreat it to refrain from defending itself.
The Russians believe that they can mislead Jerusalem. But
so far, Israel has elected to act according to facts, rather than being taken in
by Russian duplicity, and is striking Syrian targets that endanger Israel.
While Syria and Iran enjoy full Russian support, Israel
lacks U.S. backing against the Russia-Iran threat. The U.S. does not even stand
for itself in Syria – just a few days ago, Russia, like a rogue state,
violated the deconfliction zone agreement that it itself had signed with the
Therefore, Iran's expansion into all of Syria up to the
Israeli border will soon be completed, with the full support of Russia, and with
an eventual withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria.
Senior Iranian officials and military commanders have
already clarified that after Syria, Israel is next.
Israel will have to fight its war against the
Iran-Russia-Syria axis alone.
It will need America's diplomatic backing, military
equipment, and economic assistance, but never American troops. But as matters
stand, the actual U.S.
strategy vis-à-vis Iran's expansion in the region is
contrary to its rhetoric, which opposes this expansion (the U.S. agreed, both in
the Astana talks and in the deconfliction zones agreement with Russia, to
legitimize Iran's presence in Syria). This means that American support for
Israel against the Iran-Russia axis is not assured. The U.S.'s Russia policy
also does not guarantee that the U.S. will stand with Israel against the Iranian
threat that is enabled by Russia.
Israel is well equipped to answer existential threats if it
must – even if they are either directly or indirectly Russian. At the same
time, Russia's military power may prove to be overestimated. Russia acts as if
it is a world power, but its advanced weaponry may fail against Israeli-American
technological superiority. This may be why Russia is in no hurry to launch its
missiles when Israel strikes in Syria. President Obama even called Russia a
This is not to say that there is no existential threat to
Israel. Clearly, the Iran-Russia-Syria-Hizbullah axis does pose such a threat,
but Israel can overcome it, if it must. However, its ability to face the threat
depends on early recognition that Russia is part of the enemy axis.
The inability of many in Israel and the West to perceive
Russia as the enemy stems from the belief that Russia has no reason in the world
to be Israel's enemy. Therefore, they ignore what they see happening in Syria,
and instead provide complicated explanations about an inherent conflict of
interests between Russia and Iran. This is a psychological failing from which
Israel suffered bitterly in its history, as have other nations.
So why would Russia align itself politically and
strategically with Iran?
Russia views itself as a superpower fighting to reclaim its
Indeed, for Russia the enemy is not Israel. Russia's true
adversary is the U.S., and Israel is an historic ally of that adversary. Since
the collapse of the Soviet Union, an increasingly embittered Russia has
escalated its attempts to regain its past glory. The Russian regime hates the
U.S. (to understand this, it is sufficient to read Putin's address a few days
ago at the annual Valdai Club conference; see MEMRI Russian Media Project
But Russia cannot fight the U.S. directly. America is in
the North Sea, and the best Russia can do is dispatch planes to buzz the U.S.
Navy there. NATO is expanding eastwards and Russia's forces are no match for it
– as attested to by General Staff Col. (ret.) Mikhail Khoradenok on Russian
television, to the dismay of his audience: "We have 200 warplanes, while
NATO has 3,800. We have 1,600 armored vehicles and APCs, while NATO has more
Thus, anyone who talks about our capability to wage a
conventional war against NATO is clearly too hotheaded" (see MEMRI Russian
Media Project Clip #5902, February 14, 2017). Russia's single antiquated
smoke-belching aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is no match for the U.S. Navy,
with its 10 advanced carriers.
Russia cannot take on America directly, and it is using
Iran as its proxy to humiliate America, undermine its status, and expel it from
the region. At the same time, Russia can use Iran as a bargaining chip to obtain
what it needs the most: a lifting of the sanctions that were imposed after
Russia annexed Crimea and dismembered Ukraine. Russian regime-affiliated think
tanks and media explicitly stated in early 2017 that Russia's alliance with Iran
could be a bargaining chip; see reports from the MEMRI Russian Media Project,
Unless and until Russia and the West strike a deal on
lifting these sanctions in exchange for Russia's abandoning its alliance with
Iran – which is completely unrealistic – Russia will cling to this alliance.
This is because Iran reinforces Russia's superpower aspirations and pretensions,
and shares, and serves, Russia's drive to humiliate and undermine the U.S. Any
harm done to Israel in the process does not figure in Russia's strategic
considerations vis-à-vis the U.S. Worse, even if Russia were to change
direction at any time in the future, Iran's Russia-enabled expansion in Syria,
and its proximity to Israel, will remain, and will serve as the Islamic
Republic's launching pad for its war against Israel.