The Iran-Israel connection – Is there one?

Netanyahu with piece of Iranian drone that entered Israeli territory, 2018 (Photo: Preiss/ MSC)

Just two days after U.S. President Trump called off a military strike against the Iranian regime in response to the downing of a costly U.S. drone, the tough talk continues from U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton sternly warned Iran not to make the mistake of thinking that the U.S. is weak simply for choosing to hold off strikes. He further went on to say, “No one has granted them [Iran] a hunting license in the Middle East,” making sure they understand that someone is watching!

So even though the conflict seems to be between Iran and the U.S., the question is whether any of this will impact Israel? At the moment, Bolton just completed a three-day visit to Israel for a trilateral meeting with Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev and Israel’s National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat. This meeting is seen as one which further props up Israel’s legitimacy and sends a message that they are also a major player and peace broker.

Given the very close relationship between the U.S. and Israel, the subject of possible Iranian retaliation as a way for the regime to flex its muscle was sure to have come up. An additional complication is the fact that Iran has sought to use other Middle East countries as proxies to fight their battles and poke Israel in the eye. Those countries include Syria, Lebanon and Yemen among others. 

Now that President Trump has ratcheted sanctions against Iran, the Iranian government might use their leverage with the other Middle-Eastern allies to inflict harm to Israel. This would put the Jewish state in a vulnerable position and may all be part of a calculated strategy to get the U.S. to back off and rethink their crippling sanctions.

But will Iran take the risk of starting up with Israel? Most military analysts believe that such a confrontation is unlikely and that Iran would not seek to target Israel directly. Nonetheless, Israel must be vigilant to insure that Iran does not try to ignite conflict either directly or indirectly. In fact, Israel has taken many preventative measures in recent months to make sure Iran does not succeed in its continuous goal to hurt Israel.

In that effort, the Mossad (Israel’s top intelligence agency) has exposed Iran’s nuclear documents, causing the rest of the world to see their real agenda. Israel has also bombed large weapons caches in Syria, leaked intelligence to the media that an Iranian attack was imminent and exposed other efforts to wreak havoc. This sends a clear message to Iran that Israel can take care of her own interests and does not necessarily need the imposing U.S. to cover for her. In the past, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s very life has been threatened by Israel if he would allow Iran to use his country in order to fire missiles into the Jewish state.

A great part of the equation concerning the Iran-Israel connection also has to do with Russian President Vladimir Putin and where he stands in all of this.  Both Israel and the U.S. are doing their utmost to keep Russia as their ally while hoping to make it clear to Russia that working together with Iran would not be in their best interest. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told Putin’s top security adviser, “we [Israel] will do anything it takes to prevent it [Iran] from obtaining nuclear weapons,” Of course, Israel is taking this threat very seriously since the Iranian regime has called for Israel’s annihilation for decades. He further went on to say, “Israel won’t allow an Iran that calls for our annihilation to entrench itself on our border.”

Up until now, relations between Russia and Israel have been fairly stable. Netanyahu is often shuffling off to Moscow for secret talks and negotiations concerning Israel’s security situation. There is hope that the status quo will remain as Patrushev stated to reporters at the end of his Israel visit, “We pay special attention to ensuring Israel’s security…a special interest of ours because here in Israel live a little less than about two million of our countrymen.”

So despite Russia’s close relationship with Iran and Syria, there remains hope that they will do their part to discourage Israel’s enemies from executing attacks on the nation. It’s the ultimate example of “strange bedfellows” but the present reality for the region.