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February 20, 2019 1:54 pm

Ex-Top Israeli Diplomat: Despite Cooperation in Syria, Russia and Iran ‘Not Natural Allies’

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a November 2017 meeting in Sochi. Photo: Reuters / Mikhail Klimentyev.

Despite their cooperation in Syria to bolster the Assad regime, Russia and Iran are “not natural allies,” an ex-top Israeli diplomatic official said last week.

Speaking at an event at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Dore Gold — now the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank — warned that Moscow’s partnership with Tehran could backfire on it.

“I believe that one of the underlying assumptions of the Russian intervention [in Syria] and the permission they give to the Iranians to be there is that the Russian conflict is with the Sunni Muslims,” the former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and longtime adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted. “That’s the way they see it. It’s the Sunni Muslims in the Sunni states that have supported the mujahideen in the Caucasus, and that’s their central problem. So if they are in conflict with these organizations or with countries that support them — Pakistan, Saudi Arabia — they’re addressing their number-one national security concern.

“Iran? Iran isn’t their concern, but I think that’s a huge mistake they’re making because any sort of college-level student of the Middle East would lead them to understand that the Shia extremists in Iran have been supporting Sunni extremists for years, and the policy of going after Sunni states and propping up or supporting the Shia intervention in Syria can boomerang against Russia,” Gold added.

This is a very important, fundamental element and in my communications with the Russians, we would often go into these details,” he revealed. “And their responses were interesting. It was an argument that they could understand. I think they understood there’s a problem there, and they didn’t speak about Iran as a country with similar values or as a country that they are so firmly allied with.”

“Russia,” Gold posited, “is more of a status quo power, meaning it achieved what it hoped to achieve, and it wants to preserve what it achieved in Syria. The Iranians are still a revolutionary power, and they’re not only just employing their own forces. The big story in Syria are the Shia militias, which come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, and they are there to upset the applecart, which is not the Russian interest. If Russia’s achievements will be put at risk because of Iranian policy, I see a serious conflict.”

There is an “inherent conflict” between Russia and Iran, and “at some point it’s going to be expressed,” he predicted.

Watch Gold’s remarks below:

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