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Will Russia Side with Israel to Thwart Iran Attack?
Israel - Middle East
Monday, August 27, 2012
Ed DeShields

In what may be the ultimate head fake, Russia could have the perfect reason to temper the Israel/Iran war rhetoric, abandon Iran (for now) and side with Israel in the region to create an elusive – at least temporary -- peace formula.

Russia’s “play nice” efforts began when Israel discovered its enormous gas and shale oil deposits lying beneath its land and seas.  About that same time Israel and Russia realized that Israel had a lot more than it actually needed for itself.  So much, in fact, that converting that gas into liquefied natural gas enables Israel to export its surplus to Europe, who badly needs it.

That sets up a difficult scenario for Russia, who is having its own problems.  Moscow isn’t going to easily give up its control as Europe’s key supplier of energy.  Israel’s excess LNG inventories of 20 million metric tons of capacity per year would push prices significantly lower and force Russia to compete with Israel for a smaller, less profitable, share of Europe’s energy-hungry society.  The Kremlin surely isn’t keen to repeat the U.S.S.R mistake of letting the U.S. and its Middle East allies dial up production that shut down the Soviet’s revenue until it was forced by President Reagan to throw in the towel.

To make matters especially urgent for the Kremlin, a triple market whack of falling domestic energy receipts, increased low cost competition from Israel and the U.S.’s new shale gas bonanza threatening energy independence is surely keeping Vladimir Putin awake at night fearing a decline in its primary revenue stream just as the world’s economic outlook looks widely pessimistic.

Russia’s state-controlled energy exploration company, and oil-field bully, Gazprom has been poking around the Eastern Mediterranean looking for a production partnership to solve this problem while they can still make a development deal.  Expectedly, Putin recently visited Israel on an official State visit to court a cooperative relationship with State of Israel.

Here’s where is gets interesting and only slightly speculative.

It’s no secret that a confluence of world events is occurring simultaneously.  A fist-full of traditional regional powers fell in the Arab Spring movements.  The realization that the Cypriot/Israeli gas fields could squeeze Russia’s 30% market share for Europe’s energy needs, and the energy and environmental influences have created a new set of opportunities for the most unlikely of partnerships. 

Then there’s Syria.  Russia’s ally is more than likely to fall within weeks at the hands of former Syrian defectors (now called the Free Syrian Army), now joined by Iranian-backed al Qieda, Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical Islamic fighters now joining in on the civil war.  

The Kremlin is pragmatic.  If Moscow begins to feel that it has more to lose than to gain from backing President Assad, it’s going to look to hold on to its only hold in the region – which includes its only military base in the Mediterranean – and work to salvage an important new energy market (or otherwise a face new and formidable competitor).     

When the going got tough in Syria, Hamas relocated to Qatar.  Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, who also has claimed a portion of the East Mediterranean gas fortune – are streaming into Syria to side with the Free Syrian Army against Assad.  Their goal; an Islamic Syria. 

"We in Russia have no illusion about this [Syrian] regime," says Russian MP Andrei Klimov, "The only thing we'd like to have is a peaceful exit. We don't want to prolong this regime for decades or centuries. Our task is to find a peaceful solution as soon as possible."

Russia will support Assad until he loses his grip.  Then, they will move to secure their interests by forcing Iran to back off its support to the radicals in the Israeli neighborhood – including Hezbollah, and Al-Qaeda.  Russia wants no part of another Islamic revolution threatening its peace in this important and strategic geographic foothold in the Region.  Nor does Israel, or the U.S.

Russia knows that Israel’s fight with Iran is for another day and it’s putting the word out.  It’s cancelling its highly anticipated anti-aircraft missile program with Iran and it is likely to cancel its arms shipments, including refurbished soviet-era helicopters to Syria’s Assad.  In the meantime Russian battleships sit in Syrian ports waiting on the smoke to clear.

Not long ago, Arabs everywhere listened when the leader of Hezbollah spoke.  Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's prominence, bolstered by his Lebanese guerrilla force's battles against Israel, was a sign of the rising regional influence of Shiite Muslims and overwhelmingly Shiite Iran.  Now, his speeches don't necessarily make front pages even in Lebanon.

In the meantime, Russia needs to play a part in harvesting the riches of Israel and will do anything to get it done – including forcing Iran to back off its nuclear aspirations until tomorrow.   Today’s fight is with the Arab fighters threatening peace and the Israel gas fields.

That brings us back around to Israel.  The Israelis are not dupes.  If Russia can guarantee peace or align with Israel to find a solution to the Arabs problem the Israelis might be tempted to make a deal with the evil empire and fight Iran tomorrow.  And, it probably won’t be hard to convince Russia to join in. 

About Ed DeShields

Last article: War of the Elites

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