by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog
Russia has put herself, for better or for worse, in a position that requires a huge role in the Levant; perhaps much bigger than what Russia bargained for on the eve of the Russian “intervention” in Syria on the 28th of September 2015.
The initial Russian-led attack on ISIS in Syria was highly successful until a glitch was added to the picture when Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 a few weeks later in November 2015.
Turkey was immediately faced by Russian sanctions and before too long, Erdogan, the man who never apologized for past mistakes, did eventually make his apology personally to President Putin. Putin accepted the apology, but in reality Erdogan made it clear to Russia that for the Russian initiative to succeed and succeed smoothly, it has to be based on acknowledging Turkey’s presence and interests.
That said, Erdogan’s apology to Putin is an acknowledgment of the former of his position in the pecking order.
As Russia and Turkey agreed to the principle of joint effort, Turkey became a partner in the team led by Russia, and which included Iran, as the nations that stood behind the Astana talks. All the while, Russia had to play the diplomatic role of keeping Damascus and Ankara at arm’s length given the key anti-Syrian role Erdogan has played in the war on Syria.
Even as Turkish troops are currently conducting a major offensive on Syrian Kurds on Syrian soil, Russia has managed to stave off direct confrontation between Syria and Turkey.
Putting the Turkish so-called “Olive Branch” operation aside, and notwithstanding how potentially dangerous it is, it can arguably be said that Turkey is as much under control as feasible. Russia now seems poised to play a much bigger regional role. After all, the return of Russian diplomacy and presence in the Levant is highly likely to include a wish on Russia’s side to replace the United States as the Middle East peace negotiator. After the USA ousted Russia from the joint role back in the mid-seventies, Russia is now coming back with force. Add to this the fact that American diplomacy has failed and given the Arabs, and Palestinians in specific, nothing in return for the many concessions they offered. If anything, the recent acknowledgement of Trump of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is probably going to be the last straw, and with this decision, Palestinians will no longer sit with Americans on any negotiating table.
So not only is Russia coming back into the Middle East with strength and determination, but also the USA is creating a huge void to be filled.
But for Russia to be the new and good “Big Brother”, she will have to find a way to curtail Israel, just like she did with Turkey.
Recent developments have been pointing to conflict between Lebanon and Israel, a conflict that can turn into a war that has thus far been avoided since July 2006.
That conflict was somehow inevitable, and it didn’t really surface until Lieberman, Israel’s Defense Minister, made provocative statements about alleged territorial rights of East Mediterranean offshore oil-gas resources.
The outspoken and rather radical minister is often an embarrassment even to the staunchest supporters of right wing politics in Israel itself.
It is not surprising therefore that Hezbollah responded to Lieberman’s claims and threats by counter threats saying that should any offshore Lebanese infrastructure by targeted by Israel, Lebanon (ie Hezbollah) will retaliate by targeting Israeli offshore infrastructure.
We have all heard this tit-for-tat jargon many times before, but the new development here is that apparently the Russian Government has approached the Lebanese Government for military and security cooperation. According to Naharnet, a reliable Lebanese source, the two countries are not far from signing a formal agreement:
According to an article written by Salam Al-Obeidi and published on Al-Mayadeen, the proposed joint collaboration goes further. Al-Mayadeen is normally a reliable source, but what it published a few hours ago has not been corroborated elsewhere. According to Obeidi, the Russian Government is seeking an unprecedented level of military cooperation with Lebanon. (http://www.almayadeen.net/news/politics/857565/لماذا-الآن–لبنان-يفتح-مطاراته-وموانئه-أمام-الطائرات-القتالي/).
This is the English translation:
“Russia’s PM’s office advises the Lebanese Ministry of Defense of its willingness to sign a treaty for military cooperation between the two countries. This treaty includes, among other things, conducting joint military exercises and joint usage of airports and seaports of both countries that will facilitate access to fighter jets and warships on each other’s territory. The Russian government’s decision comes in response to the rising tension between Lebanon and the “Israeli entity” that is planning to build a concrete wall that goes beyond the “blue line”. Add to this the Israeli claims of ownership of “block 9” that is rich in both oil and gas and, which is in Lebanese economic waters. So what is behind the current Russian decision? Russia has taught us in the last decade or so that all that pertains to matters of energy resources, especially in the area between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea is considered by Russia to be matters of strategic and national security. From this perspective, we can understand Moscow’s position vis-a-vis Damascus’. After all, Syria’s strategic position which can potentially control oil and gas exports from the region to Europe, explains the steadfastness of Russia in its defense of President Bashar al Assad and the unity of Syria and bolstering their own military presence in Syria. From this same perspective, it can easily be concluded that the Kremlin’s resolve to expand its influence on the area must include Lebanon as well in order to complement Russia’s energy management strategy in between the Black sea and the Mediterranean. It is only logical to assume that the Russians who were successful in fighting side by side in the same trench with Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, now feel that the security of Lebanon has become a part of the security of Syria and inadvertently part of their own. In light of the diminishing Saudi influence in Lebanon, the Russians can expand their own influence there based on those fundamentals, it seems highly likely that Russia is planning to be the sole partner of Lebanon with its energy resources, especially since a large number of Russian oil companies have expressed interest in putting in tenders for gas and oil exploration in offshore Lebanese areas.”
If the above analysis of the new development is accurate, it can possibly mean one thing and one thing only that is, apart from the obvious. It can only mean that Russian diplomacy is working hard on averting any military conflict in the Levant between Arabs and their regional nemesis Israel.
Economic targets aside, as mentioned above, Russia has many international scores to settle with America; and perhaps none is worse than the humiliation that the Kissinger shuttle diplomacy has brought upon the USSR and which eventually turned the so-called peace process between Arabs and Israel into a charade in which America alone dictates the rule of the game without any role at all left for the USSR to play.
The rules of this game were set to change on the 28th of September 2015, when Russian bombers conducted their first raid on ISIS targets within Syria. That said, as Russia re-entered the role of a major global power, not to say a super power, it became incumbent on Russian leadership to play the role of international mediator and arbitrator.
America does not give a damn if Israel and Hezbollah have a new war, but Russia does; especially if Russia is well and truly intent on becoming the new peace maker, all the while protecting her strategic and economic interests.
In brief, Russia does not seem to want to shield Syria only, but also Lebanon, and inadvertently of course Israel. A new round of military conflict between Hezbollah and Israel will be devastating not only to Lebanon, but also to Israel. But more than just the material carnage and loss of life that such escalation will result in, it will have a devastating effect on any potential new peace initiative; and for Russia to assume a leading role in this process, she is under pressure to make pre-emptive measures in order to avoid such an eventuality.
The way it is, without any external deterrence and go-betweens, the next war between Hezbollah and Israel is only a question of time. The July 2006 war has destroyed most of Lebanon’s infrastructure, killed hundreds, but at the same time, Hezbollah rockets sent waves of terror across Israel.
Since then, Israel has made many pre-emptive measures. The ammonia tank in Haifa has been drained and the Israeli fertilizer manufacturing giant ICL moved its operations to China. Furthermore, Israel has worked hard on bolstering its rocket defense capability, but not to the extent that will give it an effective deterrence. This is why Israel keeps reiterating that the next escalation will see a total destruction of Lebanon in the hope that this threat in itself will be the necessary deterrence. Hezbollah on the other hand has since gained much ground battle experience in Syria, attained a huge arsenal of surface-to-surface rockets that can reach any corner of Israel, and last but not least, developed smart-bomb capable drones that have been seen in action in Syria and the Lebanese North East against ISIS.
Will the proposed Russian-Lebanese treaty make Lebanon a redline for Israel? Will it prevent any future possible escalation between Israel and Hezbollah? Will Russia be able to control Israel and replace America as the new peace negotiator who has good relationships with all parties concerned?
Calling Israel. Calling Israel: Please come to the white ursine courtesy telephone.
Ghassan, the answers are, “yes”, “yes”, and “yes”. For the sake of the Middle East, I truly hope so.
I read that news yesterday in press TV and wondering about what I just read in this article. Good and also dangerous things happening .
There will be war no doubt, which will see the end of State called, “ISISHeal”.
A drone that can carry an effective and sufficient size bomb or missile will need to be larger and heavier. And therefore easier to detect by Israeli radar and surveillance systems, including the U.S. European Command’s Early warning system installed inside Israel. Protecting against missiles is harder and if Israel is saturated by missile attack, it will have to take on some losses.
Israel basically has conducted and continuously updates a cost-benefit analysis. The cost of benefiting from the total destruction of Hezbollah. How much is the destruction of Hezbollah worth, how much are they willing to loose, what will they gain, how will it effect their image, is the world desensitized enough to handle such destruction, how does it fit in their expansionism in terms of land, economy and natural resources ? etc., etc.
Thats the regional boring stuff……the global strategy is more interesting:
I believe Israel will continue to use the US (neo-cons or anyone else willing to do the dirty work) against Russia.
In the lowest impact scenario Israel will keep pushing the US (including its allies) to sanction and isolate Russia in whatever way it can.
Israel needs a Russia to play ball and not an independent Russia who wants to do what it wants. The only means Israel has to control Russia is the US. If the US is gone, Israel loses its means to control and survive……..that is however as long as there are nations capable of disrupting Israel’s interests.
The fall of the US in whatever form is a disaster for Israel if there are other nuclear powers who are still standing and are not subservient to the Zionists.
The Zionists have to guarantee at all costs that either (1) a subservient super power is available to replace the US or (2) that the US knocks out all other super powers in the event it falls.
In the worst scenario Israel will facilitate a nuclear war between the US and Russia, either accidentally, intentionally or through a false flag method…..Knowing that there is no such thing as “the extinction of mankind” due to nuclear war and fall-out…knowing that it will survive.
The significant change being Israel’s loyal attack dog will be replaced by the country most demonised by her diaspora. Surely this is a huge loss for Israel. A setback to the Greater Israel project for good perhaps.
This seems like a fair price to pay for losing the cynical evil wars orchestrated for Her benefit.
This is big news, is it not?
This is great news, is it not?
The heads of all three branches (internal, external, military) of the Russian intelligence services have made a combined visit to Washington. Something is afoot. The timing in response to the shootdown of the Su-25 by US-created, trained and armed terrorists is surely not coincidental.
On a lighter note, if it were the other way around, the US would have to charter an A380 to get them all to Moscow.
The article is a little bit unstable in it’s analysis. No, Russia did not get more than it bargained for as far as Lebanon goes, as the facts are as follows:
ISIS was a US creation, financed by Saudi Arabia and backed by Turkey. The intention was to remove Assad from power and create an Islamic caliphate, which would be used for shipment of Qatari gas to Europe. The caliphate would also be used to stir up trouble in Russian Caucuses, where Muslims reside. Putin had no choice but to intervene.The combined Russian-Syrian effort has almost crushed ISIS.
Turkey did indeed back ISIS in Syria. It did not expect the arrival of a Russian expeditionary force, which must have been a shock to both Turkey and NATO, not to mention the shown efficiency of both Russian high tech and combat pilots. Erdogan certainly began having second thoughts. That Russian SU-24 was not shot down by an ethnic Turkish pilot, but by a Turk of Albanian origin, who was subsequently placed under arrest, as the attack against that Russian plane was done behind Erdogans back by the very same conspirators who tried that coup d’etat against him. Had it not been for Russia, the coup would have succeeded.
The conspirators prepared commando troops to take Erdogans hotel while he was officially away from Ankara. The Russians warned him about that. The conspirators also sent F-16’s against Erdogans plane, with Russia sending Sukhoi combat planes after the conspirators, while Russian ground crews in Syria warned the conspirators that S-400 missile systems would be used against them. Erdogan is alive thanks to Russia.
Between 2015, when Russia intervened in Syria, and now in 2018, things have increased in intensity. The US is threatening both North Korea and Iran, while the US not only tried that coup against Erdogan, it also wants to create a Kurdish state in Syria, right next to Turkey, which would subsequently be used against it. The last thing Erdogan wants to see is the creation of Kurdistan in his vicinity, and he certainly has no intention of being dragged into a war against Iran for Wall Streets benefit. He, ofcourse, has turned to Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union, especially since it’s perfectly clear by now that the EU does not want Turkey. It’s only a matter of time before Turkey leaves NATO, which might well start a chain reaction inside NATO.
And Lebanon ? It’s debatable if it is of great importance to Russia. Syria will always come first.
But Lebanon has Syria’s flank.
Two reasons could drive the lebanese leadership and national interests to sign the deal:
1. America is plainly an unrealiable partner.Never keeps deals: this has been demonstrated ad nauseam in the last 20 years.
2.Hesbollah, the political & military organization is not the boss but became a integral part, plus an indispensable defense guarantee to the whole of the pluralistic lebanese society.
So, in say, 20 more years from now, the present Empire will be forced to silently recognize the new realities. What are now actual and prospective rebellious countries will be routineously defiant sovereigns.
Russia is not protecting Iranian proxy forces in Syria(*). Why would anyone believe that they will take risks to protect Iranian interests in Lebanon? The article is a huge over-reach versus the actual situation.
Looking carefully, the military discussion is about “cooperation” not “mutual defense”. A cooperation structure that allows overflights gives aircraft based in Tartus more freedom to maneuver.
There may also be a longer term Putin play. If Lebanon uses Russian military doctrine, they will be more likely to buy Russian weapon systems in the future.
There will be war and the entity will be crushed. Russia is trying to mitigate the coming destruction. By their own admission the zionists are only capable of chaos – that chaos taking the form of relentless and deliberate attack on civil society. Lebanon has been the target in the past and once again will suffer in the coming war just as Syria has since 2011.
The problem for the zionists is that the next war will be their last – they will not be able to stop waves of motivated troops from Hezbollah, SAA, Iran and Russia. The methodical degrading of all their military capabilities has already begun with the defeat of the zionist mercs is Syria and the exponential containment of the iof – the zionists will turn to the US for help. The US will definitely blink at which point every military base, troop concentration and economic interest will light up by a rain of Iranian missiles. WW3 will be on – I believe the Russians understand this and are trying to build the best position possible to weather the storm.
“America does not give a damn if Israel and Hezbollah have a new war …” ?
Huh? Whatever America thinks is irrelevant. Whether it gives a damn or doesn’t give a damn, that decision is not entirely independent for the country to make. America is not in full control of itself.
If Israel goes to war with Hezbollah, it will drag America with it. Maybe not with boots on the ground, but through various other means, both military and political. Given the real possibility of another failure, the moral and prestige loss would be immmense if Israel/US loses the Lebanon gambit. They would be the laughing stock of the world.
This reported Russian involvement seems to be out of character, in my opinion. By giving signals that Russia will interpose itself between Lebanon and Israel, hoping to prevent a bloodbath … just does not make sense. Russia is never altruistic (it can’t afford to be), it has always maintained a pragmatic and cautious posture.
To minimize risks, Israel will not attack unless it’s clear on Russia’s position. Brazen and arrogant as Israel maybe, it’s not full of stupids. Putin just needed to make it clear that Russia does not support an attack and may act as it sees fit to maintain & protect its interests in Syria if they decide to attack anyway. Done. No treaties & commitment necessary for Lebanon.
Here’s a strategy to mull. Let’s assume Israel put up a paper tiger, beat the war drum and scare everyone to get Russia to commit into Lebanon. The golden question is, whether Russia’s involvement would stymie or dilute Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon. If it does, then we maybe looking at a gradual emasculation (that may take years) of an imminent threat to Israel. Who wins? Israel, without firing a shot they demolish an effective fighting force. It would also drive a wedge between Russia and Iran, that’s a second win for Israel.
Let’s see how this will pan out.
It all hinges on what Russia does in Lebanon and Iran’s reaction.
P.S. If Israel should attack or annex Lebanon and put its boots there. Any paramilitary who’s been wanting to draw Jewish blood will be there. Identical to ISIS’s modus operandi. Sponsorships are open. Please apply down the hall. Don’t forget to invite the Nazis. Did we leave anyone else out?
If only Russia were to place all of lebanon under its aerial defence shield! How often have we heard of Israeli aircraft “in Lebanese airspace” firing rockets into Syria?
Tel Aviv should be told that in future, any Israeli aircraft that enter Lebanon without explicit permission will simply be destroyed.
This is an interesting analysis IF the alleged new military agreement between Lebanon and Russia is actually accomplished.
The agreement, according to Middle East Monitor, will give Russian naval vessels access to Lebanese ports, and Russian military aircraft access to Lebanese air fields, as well as enable the Lebanese military to access Russian military exercises as well as sending Russian military experts to train the Lebanese military.
This is clearly a warning to Israel that Russia would prefer there not be another war between Israel and Hizballah, without Russia having to be seen as supporting Hizballah, which the US considers a “terrorist group.”
There is absolutely no doubt that Israel wants to destroy Hizballah as a precursor to getting a war with Iran started. The Syria crisis was all about degrading Syria’s military so that Israel could cross Syrian territory into the Lebanese Bekaa Valley without having to confront the full capability of the Syrian military. The intervention of Russia in Syria stopped that plan (although both the US and Israel continue to seek ways to achieve it, as shown by the US attacks on Syrian forces yesterday.)
The question remains how far Russia will be willing to go if Israel starts a new war with Hizballah – possibly with US assistance, as Israel has been pushing for lately. Israel can not take on Hizballah alone without getting hit with 1,600 rockets and missiles per day. So Israel needs the US and NATO to involve themselves, the US at least. It is not yet certain that Trump will sign off on this, but since he has undoubtedly been told that this is a necessary step to war with Iran and since it is clear Trump is on board with an Iran war, it is likely that the US will get involved in the next war in Lebanon (dependent on how the coming war with North Korea plays out.)
“America does not give a damn if Israel and Hezbollah have a new war, but Russia does; especially if Russia is well and truly intent on becoming the new peace maker, …”
I’ve got some problems with this statement. It implies that there once had been some peace maker or that the present peacemaker is replaced with another one. With all the deceit that had been going on (on a worldwide scale) and is going on, it’s hardly conceivable that a peace maker ever existed. (Especially with regard to the US the term doesn’t apply.)
A treaty between Lebanon and Russia would act as an effective deterrent against the possibility of a war between Israel and Lebanon. The treaty could also include a dimension with the understanding that the forces allied against Israel may respond with equal force if Israel, in desperation, decides to go nuclear. In essence, the treaty would be one of assured unacceptable destruction, if Israel initiates war with Lebanon.
Wow… Its as if Putin read the above comment. Its now the first of March and Putin just announced a whole new array of ultra modern weapon systems along with a new strategic posture that fits the above comment to a T… a strategic deterrent posture of “Assured Equal Response”.