“High-ranking officials in Jerusalem yesterday were pleased with the quiet agreement that Israel reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin about “passivity” vis-a-vis continued international pressure on Iran.
Israeli officials knew very well prior to Putin’s arrival that the Russians are opposed to a military strike in Iran, and they set a more reasonable goal for themselves to achieve: to persuade Putin to “go along” with the US and Europe and not to derail or postpone further sanctions on the Iranian regime. Officials in Jerusalem said that an agreement to that effect was reached. Putin promised that Russia would not allow Iran to strike a wedge between Russia and the West, would not try to delay continued action against Iran and would not stop the sanctions. The Russians will not take the lead in any of those initiatives, but nor will they try to stop them.
“As soon as Russia becomes a silent partner in the effort, and doesn’t derail it, things can move forward, and the Chinese will also be forced to toe the line,” said one high-ranking Israeli official yesterday. “If the Russians keep Putin’s word, it’s going to be possible to start worsening the sanctions relatively quickly.”
That said, Putin clearly voiced Russia’s opposition to a military attack in Iran, and provided historic examples: look what happened in Afghanistan, look what happened in Iraq, he said to his interlocutors, President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. You don’t always come away from that with the desired result in hand. Usually, the opposite is true. Look, there is currently a very pro-Iranian government in Iraq, and I’m not sure that that is what the Americans had planned when they toppled Saddam Hussein.
However, Israeli officials said that the impression that was received from Putin’s statements was that if a military attack is carried out in Iran, be it an Israeli attack or an American attack, “Russia won’t shed a tear.” Putin is keenly aware of the fact that a radical Islamic regime with nuclear capabilities on its southern border won’t contribute anything to Russian national security.
On the Syrian issue, Putin was shown intelligence material pertaining to the concerns about non-conventional weapons that are currently in Assad’s storerooms finding their way into the hands of terrorist organizations, such as Hizbullah and al-Qaida. The impression received was that Putin took the matter seriously and said that he would take personal action to prevent that from happening.
There were clear differences of opinion between Putin and his hosts about Assad’s fate. After a few polite words condemning what Assad has done to his own people, Putin said that there was no way of knowing in this case either whether the alternative was any better. How do you know, he asked the Israelis, whether the opposition that is currently fighting Assad won’t change its spots after Assad falls and won’t stop being loyal to the people who are financing it now? That’s been known to happen before.”