Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Real Story Behind Putin And Netanyahu's Moscow Meeting - Updated

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, September21, 2015 (courtesy Israeli embassy in Russia)

The recent meeting between Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu and Russian leader Vladimir Putin has sparked the usual nonsense in the media, usually complemented by analysis from 'experts' in academia or a former security head or two - usually affiliated with the Leftist Labor party - long out of the loop.

Here's an outline on what actually went down, according to one of my notorious Little Birdies.

The Israelis actually welcome, in a sense, the new Russian base in Syria. They see it as a stabilizing force, and they also know that Russia is chiefly interested in preserving their ally Assad and their Mediterranean access via the Syrian port of Tartous.

Israel's chief concerns are the possible build up of a new terrorist front in the Golan Heights now that Iran has all that cash courtesy of President Obama, avoiding any clashes with Russian personnel now deployed in Syria and stopping any weapons shipments going to Hezbollah. The Israelis already understand that the Russian alliance with Iran means that Russia is going to be little or no help in dealing with Iran's nuclear threat.

Contrary to what you may be reading elsewhere, Russia did not request nor did Israel agree to any formal limits on its ability to intervene in Syria to stop weapons shipments to Hezbollah or terrorist attacks on the Golan. What Israeli chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot and his Russian equivalent Gen. Valery Gerasimov agreed on was the establishment of a hotline between the Russian and Israeli general staffs.

This will connect the offices of Gerasimov’s deputy, Gen. Nikolay Bogdanovsky in Moscow and Eisenkot’s deputy, Gen. Yair Golan, in Tel Aviv. It is designed to facilitate communications and clarify things during or after Russian or Israeli military operations in Syria and to avoid any unnecessary clashes between the two military forces.

Israel has a similar setup with American forces in the region to facilitate military cooperation. Since Russia is by now the dominant source of non-native boots on the ground in the region, such an arrangement only makes sense.

Other possible topics for discussion likely involved an Israeli request that the Russians not introduce certain advanced weapons systems into the area. Israel had a similar deal with Putin in the past after successful Israeli strikes on Syrian bases storing arms bound for Hezbollah. That arrangement  exploded after Putin found out that President Obama had secretly moved 1,800 US troops to the Jordan border with Syria while the two of them were supposedly working on a diplomatic solution to Syria and the EU ended an arms embargo on the rebels in what was obviously a co-ordinated move.

Much is being made of Russian S-300 missile systems, but  the last time Putin shipped S-300s into the Middle East, the Russian Ship Arctic Sea was mysteriously hijacked en route to Iran, the S-300s were removed and disappeared and it was Israel's Mossad who told the Russians where they could find their ship, which had been boarded by a mysterious group of men posing as narcotics agents off the coast of Sweden some days earlier.
The Israelis have obviously had their hands on these for some time and figured out how to deal with them. And the Russian SAMS guarding Syria's nuclear site they set up in connivance with North Korea didn't have much effect on Israel's planes either, you'll recall.

Putin will likely continue to sell arms to Syria and Iran for transfer to Hezbollah, but will turn a blind eye on Israeli interdiction of those shipments as long as he gets paid and there are no major Russian casualties. He may also have agreed to avoid introducing certain weapons systems into the region like the Kornet missiles as part of this new understanding.

Netanyahu was quoted in the Times of Israel as saying that he told Putin in “no uncertain terms” that Israel will not tolerate Tehran’s efforts to arm Israel’s enemies in the region, and that Jerusalem has taken and will continue to take action against any such attempts. “This is our right and also our duty. There were no objections to our rights and to what I said. On the contrary: there was readiness to make sure that whatever Russia’s intentions for Syria, Russia will not be a partner in extreme actions by Iran against us.”

Putin responded by saying that the Syrian army was too bogged down in its own civil war to deal with fighting against Israel.

“All of Russia’s actions in the region will always be very responsible,” Putin said. “We are aware of the shelling against Israel and we condemn all such shelling. I know that these shellings are carried out by internal elements. In regard to Syria, we know that the Syrian army is in a situation such that it is incapable of opening a new front. Our main goal is to defend the Syrian state. However, I understand your concern.”

Putin tends to keep his agreements. We'll see how this one works out.

UPDATE: As Russian leader Vladimir Putin essentially blames the Obama Regime for the chaos in the Middle East (not without reason in my opinion I might add) there's some interesting speculation going on about what the Russian forces are actually up to.

According to the Daily Beast, Russian drones and planes are concentrating on Western Syria, particularly in areas a long way from where ISIS is just now.

This is yet another sign that Russia's key mission has far less to do with fighting terrorism and far more to do with supporting combat operations designed to keep Bashar al Assad in power. ISIS no longer has any presence in Idlib province or Latakia since more moderate rebels expelled them. Instead, the Russian deployment to the area comes at a time when more moderate opponents to the Assad regime are making military gains in northwestern Syria.

Now, what could the Russians be scoping out? These guys:

These gentlemen belong to Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Conquest. This group of moderate rebels, as the article calls them are being funded trained and armed by the Obama Administration and Turkey just like ISIS was when they were part of the Free Syrian Army, only this time it's Saudi Arabia taking the part of Qatar as a major funder. This is a picture taken in Idlib. Guess whom most of these moderate rebels are affiliated with?

Why,Ahrar ash-Sham, an officially designated terrorist group and our old friends the al-Qaeda offshoot al-Nusrah, of course. Jaish al-Fatah has taken over large chunks of Idlib province, including the provincial capitol.

It appears that the Russians are actually preparing to take out some Islamist jihadis while bolstering their ally, Assad.


Mark said...

Some side considerations regarding Russia. Russia's troops and new Military gear is untested in battle. This will be an opportunity to see how all of it performs. China is also another player in the region, all be it a silent one.

Rob said...

Good Observation, but keep in mind that Russia's military is mostly not equipped with these new weapons, but antiquated gear. Russia is far too broke to afford to equip all but their very best units with SOTA weaponry.

And Russia has another problem...demographics are not its friend. Something like 70% of native Russian pregnancies end in abortion, and the sector of the population that is having kids is Muslim. The Russian military has seen numerous incidents of brawls and even actual shootings breaking out between native Russians and Muslims in their military.Russia, as a consequence, has to be very careful about what it supplies to which units.