Israeli defense officials have been split on their assessment of the overall strategic implications of the Moscow-Tehran military deals, which have so far had hundreds of Iranian drones being supplied in exchange for cash.
With Russia set to sign a procurement deal in the coming days that would see it receive another several hundred unmanned attack drones from Iran, Israeli officials worry this could be a stepping stone toward more advanced deliveries, potentially even hypersonic missiles.
The two sides are also in talks to establish a production line of drones in Russia, as has already been reported in the US media. Although Iran has already agreed to set up that factory on Russian soil, officials believe this could take up to two years to set up once the deal is inked. Russia has also shown interest in buying surface-to-surface missiles from Iran, but no deal has been finalized as of yet.
Israeli defense officials have been split on their assessment as to the overall strategic implications of this cooperation. The most radical estimate, which is promoted by Mossad and is backed by some in the IDF Intelligence Directorate, is that this ever-deepening collaboration is poised to become a growing threat to Israel.
Those who have voiced concern in this regard point out that the deepening ties mean that Russia could eventually reciprocate by transferring hypersonic missiles, which can reach a velocity that is several times faster than the speed of sound, and by helping Iran establish a foothold in Syria. This, they warn, may narrow Israel’s ability to use its air force on its northern border.
The other approach, led by the IDF directorate, views the ongoing collaboration as nothing more than a “business-like transaction” without strategic implications. While Russia has recently transferred Iran US-made weapon systems seized in battle so that it could reverse engineer them and is set to provide Iran with Sukhoi-35 jets, Moscow is not going to let Iran reach an overly dominant position in the region, in keeping with its long-held stance, which includes a rejection of Iran’s nuclearization.
Russia, they believe, will seek to have its transactions with Iran limited to the commercial and economic aspects for the most part, in order to avoid setting up another area of contention with the West.
The UAV deals between the sides have already piqued the interest of Hezbollah and various terrorist groups in the region in this type of weapon system. Iran’s keen interest in supplying drones to its proxies is part of its desire to establish a forceful deterrence against Israel and its regional rivals.
Why won’t Israel send weapons to Ukraine?
Israeli officials explain their refusal to supply lethal weapons primarily by the dependence of their national security on the freedom of military action in Syria. Moscow leverages this circumstance, exerting pressure on Israel by limiting its military operations in the country.
Israel has until now resisted providing weapons to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February 2022. One major reason for Israel’s hesitance appears to be its strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.
“Israel is assisting Ukraine in the defense and civilian fields. Every request is being reviewed according to the defense export policy to Ukraine. We won’t elaborate on that for national security and foreign policy considerations,” the Defense Ministry told Global Defense Corp in response.
However, one senior Israeli official told Walla news site that one of the reasons Israel approved the licenses was to possibly see how the defense systems perform against Iranian drones.
While the decision was made last month, the report comes a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had held a discussion on Israel’s policy regarding aid to Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion and war.
For the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Israel has authorized the sale of defensive military equipment to Kyiv, a report said Thursday.
According to the Walla news site, which cited three Israeli and Ukrainian officials, Jerusalem approved export licenses for two Israeli companies to sell electronic warfare systems with a range of some 40 kilometers (25 miles) that could be used to defend against drone attacks.
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