October 12, 2023
The assault by Hamas against Israel happened on October 7 which is Vladimir Putin’s birthday. It may be coincidental, but there are other telltale signs that implicate Russia’s involvement. Firstly, Russia’s only ally is Iran which finances terrorism in the region. The two countries hate the West, are state sponsors of terrorism, and at war with their neighbors. They also meddled in the Middle East for years, most recently in Syria which they helped to destroy. They also stand to benefit from this war in many ways: Prices for their oil prices have jumped, the Middle East is further destabilized, a Saudi-Israel agreement was halted, and Israel’s struggle distracts attention, and possibly funds, away from Russia’s ongoing pulverization of Ukraine. It should not escape notice that the same brutal tactics deployed by these two against the Syrians have been propagated against Ukrainians and now Israelis. And Putin’s first foreign visit after his February 24 invasion of Ukraine was to Tehran to visit with the Ayatollah in July 2022. Ever since, Iran has supplied missiles and drones to Russia while Moscow has provided Iran with electronics and military expertise. This poisonous partnership is under-appreciated by the mainstream media, but its geopolitical consequences in Gaza and beyond are immense.
Suspiciously, Russia’s initial response to the shocking invasion of Israel was tepid and neutral. Its spokesman said only that Russia was “extremely concerned” and that the fighting must stop. There are also reports that Putin has not sent condolences to Israel in the days after the attack and did not even call his “friend” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu either. Both inactions were uncharacteristic. Putin kept in very close contact with Israel’s leaders after the Ukrainian invasion in 2022 — a strategy to prevent them from wading in on Ukraine’s side by providing the Iron Dome and other assistance to Ukraine. And it worked. Israel was noticeably absent when it came to helping Ukraine’s democracy defend itself against Russia’s genocidal war. Finally, Putin broke his silence on Oct. 10 and blamed America for the Israeli-Hamas war and that day Iran admitted it provided Palestinian fighters “with the skills” for the Israeli attacks.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in Washington DC connected the dots and wrote that Israel’s plight was being weaponized by Russia and used as part of its “infowar” against Ukraine and America. The ISW noted that “the Kremlin will likely continue to exploit the Hamas attacks in Israel to advance several information operations intended to reduce US and Western support and attention to Ukraine. These Kremlin narratives target Western audiences to drive a wedge in military support for Ukraine, seek to demoralize Ukrainian society by claiming Ukraine will lose international support, and intend to reassure Russian domestic audiences that the international society will ignore Ukraine’s war effort.”
Inside Russia, the usual mouthpieces, on its state television and military blogs, pushed the narratives that the attack against Israel reveals Western weakness (given the huge military support by the U.S. to Israel) and that it will divert U.S. military help for Ukraine to Israel. By contrast, Biden stood by Israel firmly, as he has Ukraine, but the Middle East conflict spreads. Hamas
continues to lob rockets at Israel, and there is fighting and bombing along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon where Iran’s proxy terrorist organization, Hezbollah, is ensconced and has missiles trained on Israeli cities. Shelling is also coming from Syria onto the Golan Heights and the West Bank is a powder keg waiting to explode. For years, Israeli soldiers have been guarding settlers there, enabling them to bully Palestinians and to build new settlements on their land, despite international condemnation.
To date, Iran has not admitted to directly planning the attack, but it finances terrorist organizations across the region.
The Russia-Iranian alliance developed in Syria after 2015 when the two were engaged in propping up dictator Bashar al-Assad. Putin’s Wagner Group was heavily involved and still is. I came across one security report that says the Wagner Group remains in Syria and some of its personnel was “transferred” to Iranian and Hezbollah forces to help increase their capability. This raises the possibility that Moscow’s Wagner Group also provided or trained persons with the “skills” required to execute the October 7 massacre by Hamas.
The threat of a militarized Russia-Iran relationship alerted concern at the European Council on Foreign Affairs a few months ago. It presciently wrote: “The war in Ukraine has led to unprecedented levels of Russian-Iranian cooperation in the military, economic, and political spheres. The new relationship between Russia and Iran is a direct threat to the EU and European countries. Russian-Iranian cooperation could prolong the war in Ukraine, increase Iranian capacity to advance its nuclear programme, de-stabilize the Middle East, and undermine Western influence in institutions of global governance.”
In May, American officials also warned that the two were increasing their firepower and becoming a danger. “Russia has been offering Iran unprecedented defense cooperation,” including on electronics and air defense, said White House spokesman Michael Kirby. “Last month, Iran announced that it had finalized a deal to buy SU-35 fighter jets from Russia. Iran is seeking to purchase additional military equipment from Russia, including attack helicopters, radars and Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft. In total, Iran is seeking billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment from Russia. This is a full scale defense partnership, one that is harmful to Ukraine, to the region in the Middle East, and to the international community.”
The Russia-Hamas linkage was noted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a speech on October 9 to NATO, who described them as the “same evil”. He added “the only difference is that there is a terrorist organization [Hamas] that attacked Israel, and here is a terrorist state [Russia] that attacked Ukraine.”
The geopolitical consequences of the Russia-Iran Axis will be immense — a multi-front war against Israel, attacks on regional oil exports, and the arrival of a U.S. strike force in the eastern Mediterranean near Gaza, Israel, and the Suez Canal. Then there is the prosecution of the war by Israel which may involve more indiscriminate bombing in Gaza, a bloody invasion of the densely packed region, fighting in Lebanon which may bring it down because it already has no government or economy left, and an Israeli “siege” of Gaza which could become a humanitarian disaster of starvation and death.
Solutions are possible but will require monumental effort. Firstly, Russia must be expelled from Ukraine and contained. Hamas and Hezbollah must be eradicated, then politically divided Israelis must unite around a two-state solution for Palestinians. Finally, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the wealthy Arab world must step up, Iran must be contained, America and Europe must help, and a peaceful arrangement, creating a Palestinian state, must be negotiated. Until then, the carnage will continue and spread in both regions.