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The Russian-Israeli cooperation detracts from the trust between Iran and Russia, and complicates the Iranian attempt, in coordination with Hezbollah, to establish an infrastructure in southern Syria for terrorist operations against Israel in the Golan Heights area.
Some of the coordination between Israel and Russia in Syria seems to involve Israeli freedom of action in Syrian and Lebanese airspace (even though the area is covered by Russian surface-to-air missile batteries). Thus far, Israel has managed to sustain its aerial coordination with Russia. Israel has taken care to maintain its freedom of action in countering what it defines as a concrete threat against it.
The recent action in Syria attributed to Israel, however – the killing of Samir Kuntar in the outskirts of Damascus – has aroused the fury of Hezbollah and Iran. From their perspective, this operation involved understandings between Israel and Russia that are taking precedence over Russia’s commitments to the pro-Assad coalition.
If the appearance of stepped-up Russian-Israeli coordination indeed reflects strategic coordination, it will undoubtedly give rise to second thoughts in the Russian coalition about the validity of the partnership.
The upheavals in the Middle East have created new partnerships and coalitions limited in objectives and time.
Just as NATO member Turkey can maintain relations with the Islamic State, while the United States proclaims that the war against I.S. is the principal American effort, Russia can lead a coalition in partnership with Iran and Hezbollah, while at the same time maintaining strategic understandings with Israel.
Iran has no option for an exit from the game in Syria, and will therefore prefer continued cooperation with Russia, even if it sometimes leaves a sour taste.
Furthermore, by persisting in this cooperation, Iran avoids leaving Russia to build the foundations of a settlement in Syria by itself, at the expense of Iranian interests in Syria and elsewhere in the region.