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Russia agrees to rein in Iran

A couple of weeks ago two contemporary masters of international statecraft met in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin is president/dictator of Russia, a country of continental proportions, occupying vast areas of both Asia and Europe and facing on three oceans; a repository of natural resources of all kinds — raw materials, energy sources, and extensive excellent agricultural lands. Militarily it is one of the three great nuclear powers of the world.

Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister of a very small country of less than nine million people, facing on no oceans, one-third desert, and with no natural resources whatever except for the natural gas deposits recently discovered.

The two statesmen have one thing in common, however, and it is sufficient — they need each other, and they recognize it and act accordingly:

Despite its size Russia is a dying society; its population is declining steadily and the public health situation is ghastly. The population decline is not just because of a low birth rate but also because of a high death rate.

Despite its size, Israel is an economic, scientific, and technological powerhouse and has by far the most powerful military in all of the Middle East/North Africa region (MENA).

Putin’s Russia has one overriding regional objective: namely, retaining its recently-acquired domination of the eastern Mediterranean through its naval and air bases on the Syrian coast.

Netanyahu’s government has one overriding regional objective (among many others), namely preventing the creation of an arc of Iranian domination to its north, involving Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and preventing the Iranian development of a nuclear capacity.

Russia wants no rival to its creation of a sphere of influence in the region and thus is opposed to the spread of Iranian domination. Israel wants its northern border to be as free of external threats as possible.

Given that their objectives not only do not clash but actually coincide, these two master statesmen reached agreements in Moscow designed to suit both their interests. This was confirmed following the meeting by a declaration on the part of Putin that: (1) Iranian forces should evacuate Syria and (2) that Israel has an absolute right to defend its borders.

Given its penchant for concentrating on trivia, the major media paid little attention to Putin’s statement, but it is in fact of fundamental importance for Israel. In effect, Putin is telling Iran not to try to complete its arc of influence or it will meet with Russian opposition, as well as that of Israel and presumably the US. He is giving Israel carte blanche to take military action against Iranian targets in Syria, as well as against Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, in Syria and Lebanon.

Interestingly, it is possible that Iran will, whatever it says for public consumption, actually welcome having an excuse to bring home its forces in Syria, if only to increase its capacity to repress the exponentially-increasing popular rebellion at home, fueled by ethnic hatred of the regime by the non-Persian minorities, and economic misery caused by a disastrous drought and gross mismanagement of the economy.

Turkey can only be an observer of these developments. It knows full well that Russia can close the Bosporus at any time and effectively suffocate it. With economic problems of his own, Erdogan has no incentive to escalate tensions and will limit himself to his well-known verbal eruptions.

Fundamental changes indeed and to the benefit of Israel. Congratulations to Czar Vladimir and to Bibi!

This article was originally published by Globes