Senior political analyst Anees Naqqash, who has very close ties to Hezbollah and enjoys an authoritative status on various Lebanese, Syrian and Arab media outlets, was asked in a recent interview on Lebanese television: how can Iran & the ‘Resistance Axis’ be strategically allied to Russia while Moscow’s officials repeatedly announce their commitment to Israel’s security?
The ‘Resistance Axis’ here broadly refers to a strategic anti-Israel/anti-US imperialism alliance composed of, but not limited to, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi, Yemen’s Ansarullah, and various Palestinian armed factions.
Source: OTV Lebanon (YouTube)
Date: 20 February, 2019
However there is something that remains unclear till now, and that is the Russian-Iranian relationship. I’d like you to shed some light on this, and to clarify some ambiguities if they exist. How do you describe the relationship between Iran and Russia and its continuation in the region, especially in Syria?
This ambiguity that can be seen is a media plan. Meaning that there is a ‘media kitchen’ whose aim is to portray as if there are contradictions, in order to undo this alliance. We can see that some of the political objectives of some Americans is to undo the Chinese-Russian alliance. Some (Americans) such as Trump, say that we must get closer to Russia in order to isolate China, while others say we must work with China to isolate Russia.
In this region here, some (Americans) believe that the Russian-Iranian alliance is a great threat, firstly because it brought a power – that is an adversary of the United States – to the Middle East region. Secondly, because (this alliance) strengthened the Resistance Axis – without (Russia) becoming a (formal) part of the Resistance Axis. The Resistance Axis became stronger because it now had air cover, air defence, (greater) intelligence (data), coordination e.t.c. According to (reliable) information, the ones who brought the Russians to the region – to Syria – were the Iranians, and not the other way around. (The Iranians) brought them, meaning they convinced them to come – ‘brought’ is probably not a nice word – what convinced them to come is the following, and these are the words of Jalili to President Putin – (Saeed) Jalili was the head of (the Supreme) National Security (Council):
‘The main weak point of the United States in the world is the Middle East region, and we are able to weaken it to a greater extent if we were to cooperate, because we have clear evidence that demonstrates how we have already weakened the United States (in the Middle East)’. This is the specific point that ‘clicked’ for President Putin, and so he took the decision at that time to come to Syria, after he took guarantees that the Resistance (Axis) is the one that will work on the ground, while (Putin) is to take care of the air power.
The second point which convinced (Putin) of this alliance is the issue of terrorism. This terrorism is not limited to Syria or Iraq, but rather, could (even) reach the Fergana Valley: the border region between Afghanistan and Russia (i.e. the Soviet Union), and it is well known that Chechnya was ablaze before President Putin came and ended this armed rebellion, you also have Tatarstan, Dagestan, and 7-8 Muslim republics in the Russian Federation, the British, American, and Saudi intelligence work day and night on (these republics) in order to ignite this region. Hence there is an interest (to fight terrorism), and so President Putin had said on many occasions that ‘we are fighting them in Syria so that they do not come to us’. This issue even extended to China, with the Uyghurs and the separatist threat, and today (China) has a problem, money is being pumped (into this region), and you have 4,000 Uyghurs who came to fight in Syria, I don’t know who brought them here from China and trained them…
Therefore these (Iranian-Russian) understandings are strategic. As for geopolitics, today the Chinese-Russian-Iranian understanding regarding Afghanistan, which is the heart of Central Asia, and which forms an intersection for more than one border and state, (this understanding) is in place and continues very strongly. Meaning that the Russian-Iranian strategic understanding does not stop at the Syrian file, but rather extends to international (geopolitical) equations related to confronting the United States’ influence, and relates to the safeguarding of the security of Russia and China. If you are protecting a state’s internal security, this is very important for such (major) states. For this reason (Russia) is a strategic ally in more than one way. Now in Syria on the ground, if you have differences like whether to start with Idlib first as opposed to Deir az-Zour, or should we suffice ourselves with (this or that)…all this goes back to the varying perspectives of both (Iran and Russia).
Iran is a first-degree regional power, which views (things) as a regional power, and Russia is a global power that views (things) as a global power.
Iran is a first-degree regional power, which views (things) as a regional power, and Russia is a global power that views (things) as a global power. For this reason, the Iranians cannot say ‘I can attract the Turks 100% to my axis’, because there is a certain balance (of power) between the Turks and the Iranians. The Russians can dream, work on, and achieve this result, in the sense that they have the ability to pull the Turks out of NATO and bring it into the Shanghai (Organisation). The Iranians are unable to do this…and this (sometimes) causes a difference – to some extent – between Russian and Iranian tactics. With regards to Israel, the Russians are not with the liberation of Palestine in the sense that we talk about. However, (Russia) is not against the ‘Resistance Axis’ being strong (and capable) of confronting Israel, and the Israeli army, which is an American and Western tool, all its weapons are Western-made, when Russian weapons are victorious over Western weapons – we saw how the Kornet (anti-tank missile) began to be sold throughout the world, we saw how Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are buying today the S-400 and how everyone is rushing towards Russian weapons – all this is because of the manifestation (of the effectiveness) of Russian weapons in the region, beginning with the resistance Hezbollah, and ending with the (direct) Russian presence in the (Middle East).
But sorry…Russia, according to the words of prominent (Russian) officials, has pledged to safeguard the security of Israel. How does Iran reconcile between its strong alliance or partnership with Russia who in turn pledges to safeguard Israel’s security? And the Russians have said this and announce it every day. The Russians say we are committed to Israel’s security. It is as if the (Russians) reached an agreement with the Americans, telling the (Americans) ‘not to worry, you could leave Syria, leave the security of Israel to us. You don’t talk to Iran and (Hezbollah), but we’ll talk to them, you guys don’t worry’….
A commitment to the security of Israel, is different to defending Israel. The United States says ‘we are committed to ensuring that Israel remains stronger than all Arab states, and we are committed to its security and defending it’. Russia does not (tell Israel) I am committed to defending you, because (Russia) acts within international law. Any state that respects international law and is a member of (the UN) – Israel is a recognised member (of this body) and hence (Russia) says that it abides by this. Meaning that (Russia) does not (officially support) a full-scale regional war. (However) is (Russia) able to prevent the Resistance Axis or Syria from taking a decision to retake the Golan (Heights)? No he is not, because this also falls under international law.
So why did (the Russians) move Iran and Hezbollah away from southern Syria?
I take you back to President Putin’s statement that ‘we must go back to the ceasefire agreement, and to remind (all sides) that the Golan (Heights) is occupied land’. (Putin) did not forget to say this last part. Whether (the Russians) moved the Iranians away from the Golan (Heights) or brought them closer to it, these are really just details. Why are they just details? Let me tell you what the Israelis (themselves) say today, after Netanyahu got all happy, the Israelis today say that: ‘we now have intelligence that (the Iranians & Hezbollah) took off their military uniforms and put on Syrian army uniforms’.
Oh okay, I get it.
The (Israelis) are saying this, not me. Secondly, (it is a fact) that the Resistance Axis is present in Syria, and that it has committed itself – in an official Iranian-Syrian agreement – to rebuilding the Syrian Armed Forces to the highest level, such that it can thwart all dangers. What does this mean? It means we wish to make the Syrian army stronger than what it was, and we want it to have a missile capability – what kind of missile capability? If Israel is afraid of the Lebanese missile capability (of Hezbollah), what about if this same capability was also now present in Syria? Despite the fact that – and I don’t hide things from our people, things that the Israelis already know – that 90% of the missiles in Lebanon are Syrian-made, or come via Syrian capabilities, so if (the Syrians) are giving me, does that mean they don’t have (such missiles)?
Are they Syrian-made or Iranian-made in Syria?
No no, today technology can be transferred, just like when you get the ‘under license’ right you can manufacture yourself.
Yes franchise, or through cooperation, sometimes you have experience in something and I have experience in something – they are openly cooperating, (Iran & Syria) made an agreement, they officially signed it between the two states, with the aim of building up the Syrian Armed Forces.
So today Israel’s problem is that you have a Resistance Axis whose presence has extended, between Syria and Lebanon, and so things have now changed.
So today Israel’s problem is that you have a Resistance Axis whose presence has extended, between Syria and Lebanon, and so things have now changed. Where do the Russians stand regarding these developments? Will they tell (President) Assad you are not allowed to arm yourself, or you are not allowed to retake the Golan (Heights), or that you must become weaker?
Of course, if some think that the Resistance Axis was going to come and place the flag of Hezbollah in Dara’a or on the Syrian borders with the Zionist entity, this would be considered as a type of incitement for the international community…yet who will prevent a Syrian decision today to militarily take back the Golan (Heights)? International law allows them to do this, international law! And Russia allows (the Syrians) to do this and (in fact) wish they actually do (retake it). And the Resistance Axis does not want from Syria anything more than this. The issue of the liberation of Palestine will be pursued by the Resistance Axis via other contexts.
Therefore, there are no real (Iran-Russia) contradictions…to the contrary, coordination, especially between the Russian forces and Hezbollah, is at its highest level. And the Russians are greatly impressed by Hezbollah’s fighters, as resistance fighters who fought in 50-degree Celsius temperatures in the (Syrian) deserts, and they fought in -14 degree Celsius temperatures during the snowstorms in the mountaintops. This all occurred under the eyes of the Russians, who saw (Hezbollah’s) coordination abilities, and (Hezbollah’s) ability to move not only small groups of guerrilla forces but also an entire ground force brigade.
When Sayyed Hassan (Nasrallah) said that they brought him the news that ‘we liberated a (Syrian) land mass five times the size of Lebanon’, it is true, (Nasrallah) said he was abit surprised at this news, but it is true, 50,000 square kilometres, (Hezbollah) was able to liberate and take control of this whole land area.
That’s right, using armoured and tactical brigades and…
Yes all types of forces – thus huge, fundamental transformations have occurred.
For this reason when I say today (Nasrallah commands) half a million (trained) fighters (within the Resistance Axis), I am not exaggerating, and (the resistance enjoys) tactical, command, and operational capabilities much greater than what they were during the 2006 (war). For this reason (Nasrallah) said that we have 40 (military) regions in Lebanon today, just one of these regions contains within it more capabilities than the entire capabilities of (Hezbollah) in the year 2000. Thus there are very great transformations occurring in the balance of power.