The new relationship for the exchange of intelligence data, which had been established between Russia and Israel, is currently in danger.
The most clear sign of this bilateral crisis can be seen in the mild reaction to the Israeli protests concerning the Russian sales or transfers to the Hezbollah of military equipment (often advanced one).
The polemic was also rekindled in the last telephone conversation between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin, last Saturday, July 23.
During the phone call between the two leaders another very sensitive issue was discussed, namely the case of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which managed to enter and penetrate the Israeli airspace in the area of the Golan Heights directly from Syria.
The UAV had to take pictures of some Israeli equipment and special operations in the region.
As many as three F-16-launched Israeli missiles failed to hit the UAV, which returned to Syria unscathed.
Russia detected it on its radars, but it did nothing to report it to others or to strike it on its own.
Obviously Russia has no interest in losing Iran for Israel.
Iran is a stable ally in oil equilibria and it is now pushing up sales after signing the JCPOA. It is an effective bulwark against the Sunni Islam, which sides almost fully with the United States, and it is Russia’s mainstay in the Greater Middle East – and it could not be otherwise.
In fact Russia is very useful to Syria, since it is the inevitable primary protector of Bashar al-Assad. Russia, however, has no reason to change the war balances within Syria and the Middle East during the war against Daesh-Isis, which has reaffirmed the Russian stable hegemony over the region.
An hegemony which, according to the Russian Presidency, not even Israel can avoid, neither as a partner, nor as a satellite, after the geopolitical disaster caused by President Barack Obama which has left the Middle East without any global player, except for Russia.
After the coup Turkey has turned away from NATO and the United States. The European Union is paying Turkey to be fooled on migrants. Saudi Arabia is negotiating with Russia for it to loosen its ties with Iran. Iraq is turning to Russia after the recent power void. A complete strategic success for Russia.
Nevertheless Israel must and can have some other reliable and stable partners in the Middle East, now that the United States are no longer present in the region, either as Saudi Arabia’s “old cronies” or as idealistic organizers of “liberation struggles” from the usual “tyrants”.
Obviously the drone is primarily the sign of the Hezbollah technological power against Israel, if attacked.
Who did supply the UAV technology to the “Party of God”? Russia? Or Iran, which has a wide and advanced fleet of drones, particularly the medium-long range armed drones? Or are technologies stolen from opponents, as often happens during the now numerous “small wars” in the Middle East?
We do not know, but now Israel is aware of the fact that Hezbollah can reach its territory with an UAV and hit it.
And above all it knows that Russia will not lay a finger on its Iranian-Lebanese ally, at least until Israel is bound stably to the Russian system and military interests in the region which, however, do not coincide with Israel’s – whatever happens in current negotiations.
After all, Israel was reminded of the fact that the Golan Heights are an open front, and that the Jewish State’s interest in a Syria shattered by war cannot last forever.
In other words, the Lebanese group’s UAV means that Israel cannot think, in the short term, of encompassing the Golan Heights which, however, are essential to its defense northwards.
Furthermore, after President Erdogan’s countercoup following the attempted rebellion of the Turkish Armed Forces, there are already Turkish “liaison officers” at Assad’s government in Damascus.
This still implies that Turkey may cease any direct or indirect military action against Assad’ Syrian Arab Army, but only in exchange for a complete ban on a new Kurdistan which could emerge with the US tacit support – support granted even by Israel.
Moreover, without Turkey’s help, no Sunni geopolitical actor can think of supporting the jihad against Assad’s Alawites and his allies.
Hence, if Syria stabilizes itself, Saudi Arabia will no longer have its jihadi proxies to fight Iran on behalf of Saudi Arabia – possibly on the Syrian territory, as happened so far – and Turkey may no longer have to face the “nuisance” of the Kurdish State on its border, and possibly even inside it – something that not even Iraq and Iran want. Finally Israel should deal with the Golan Heights issue, without any reliable ally (the United States or the ridiculous Europe) and only with its own forces which, at that juncture, should simultaneously face an Iranian, Syrian, Hezbollah attack – and possibly a Turkish or Iraqi one – without the US support, but with the stoic and detached attitude by Russia, which would ultimately act as a mediator.
And certainly the losing country will see its role diminished.
In fact the Russian weapons not going directly to Bashar al-Assad are heading to the Hezbollah, and currently the Lebanese and Iranian group has already recreated – again with Russian weapons – at least one battalion, which is already training in Southern Lebanon.
What could Israel do at this juncture? In our opinion the Jewish State could: a) maintain its good relations with Russia, which also play and intelligence role; 2) strategically avoid the link between the attack eastwards and northwards, which could anyway take place due to the current presence of Sunni Palestinian militants among Bashar al-Assad’s forces; 3) rebuild an international support network with India, China and other Central Asian SCO countries, with a view to counterbalancing any Russian support to new Shia or Sunni Middle East actors.
However, we shall see the new US foreign policy and, in particular, the strategic dangerousness of the anti-Semitic madness in the current European ruling class.
Furthermore, the new relationship between Turkey and the Russian Federation has been shown by the Russian warning and reporting to Ankara of the Turkish Armed Forces’ coup before its start.
Russia wants a powerful Turkey, not making it be isolated only in the Shiite front – a united Turkey and, above all, ever less tied to NATO, which is President Putin’s primary strategic goal.
Hence the coup in Turkey was a geopolitical blessing for Russia.
Currently President Erdogan is furious with the United States, which protect the political and religious leader, Fathihullah Gulen, accused by President Erdogan of being the instigator of the military coup, and there is little the United States can do in the Middle East without making peace with Turkey.
Moreover, NATO has been de facto deprived of any power in the Greater Middle East – and this is another achievement by President Putin.
It will become either an umbrella for “operations of the willing”, like any UN organization, an entity to issue humanitarian and pacifist statements or even an organization for managing local crises – a tool of the US-German or, more often, US-British relationship.
And Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty on collective responsibility will be put to an end as, indeed, has already happened silently.
Hence what can be done? A Conference for the Middle East should be organized immediately, reaffirming a role for Russia and enabling the countries of the region, obviously including Israel, to negotiate a partial demilitarization of the traditional confrontation areas, having reliable brokers and mediators.
As was the case with the Madrid Conference of 1991. And as it could happen today in a Rome Conference in which it is decided that Israel is entitled to maintain and defend its current borders and that the security of the border areas is delegated to buffer military structures formed by Russian, Chinese, US, German, Italian and Central Asian forces.
And finally it could be decided to organize a Peace Conference between Israel and the Arab League, on behalf of its members, managed and led by Russia and by the United States, if they want or can do so.
For Europe, obviously, nothing to do and no role to play.
GIANCARLO ELIA VALORI
Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France