EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Intermittent Israeli strikes against Iranian positions in Syria have alarmed Russia, which is trying to solidify its military gains there. Active Israeli interference could bring down the highly unstable security architecture the Russians are working on in Syria. Moscow must balance between its war ally, Iran, and Israel, an important regional player – two states with radically different geopolitical imperatives.
Over the past several months, one of the Kremlin’s major concerns has been the extent to which Israel will continue to carry out preventive strikes on Syrian soil.
On February 10, an armed Iranian drone was shot down over Israeli airspace prompting a swift and devastating Israeli response. Two months later, on April 9, Israeli jets struck again, bombing the T4 base and killing 14 personnel – including at least seven IRGC troops. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called this a “very dangerous development.”
These incidents suggest that an Israeli-Syrian (by extension Iranian) military engagement could evolve into a serious situation that could spin out of Russia’s control. This is worrisome to Moscow as it is keen to keep the balance in Syria.
How, then, might Russia respond as tensions escalate between Iran and Israel on Syrian ground?