Many people have pointed the finger at Russia for the attack by Hamas on civilians in Israel as a tactic to take Western attention away from aiding Ukraine. At Foreign Policy magazine, Hanna Notte explains why that isn’t likely. She writes:
Over the years, some Russian-made weapons—such as anti-tank and shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles— have made their way into Gaza, likely via Iran. But so far, there is no clear evidence that Russia supported Hamas in planning or executing its surprise attack on Israel.
But that does not mean that Russia is a nonentity in this latest Israel-Hamas conflict. Since launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow has dramatically deepened its cooperation with Iran. In return for Iranian combat drones and other military gear, Russia has stepped up its defense support for Tehran, including—as the United States fears—with assistance for its missile and space-launched vehicle programs. There has been a flurry of Iranian-Russian military engagement, including Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s tour of an arms exhibition in Tehran last month.
Once an eager mediator in the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, Russia has also lost enthusiasm for seeing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action restored. After its invasion of Ukraine, Russia ceased to push for meaningful and timely progress in the nuclear talks, creating a de facto shield for Iran’s near-nuclear status.
In Syria, Russia and Iran have found common cause in harassing U.S. forces stationed in the northeast. Those troops—numbering about 900 at any given time—remain in Syria to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State, support U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, and thwart Iranian and Russian ambitions in the country. According to classified documents leaked earlier this year, Russia, Iran, and Syria have established a “coordination center” to direct a concerted effort to drive the U.S. military out.
Russia has taken some steps to compensate for Iran’s empowerment, eagerly supporting normalization between Syria and several Arab states. On balance, however, Russia is enabling rather than constraining Tehran in the region. Even though there is no evidence to support the idea that Iran was intimately involved in planning Hamas’s attack, it has long provided logistical and military support to the militant movement, as well as to other proxy groups in its increasingly decentralized “axis of resistance.”
A new war in the Middle East suits Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow hopes to deflect Western attention and resources away from Ukraine by cultivating global pressure points and distractions.
Read more here.
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