Putin to Israel: Beware 'not that smart' wars, like ones in Iraq, Afghanistan
'To do something without knowing the final consequence isn't that smart,' Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week, citing US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was in Israel, warning leaders there of risks of a military strike against Iran.
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But it’s also true that recent events in Israel’s neighborhood leave the Israeli government more sympathetic to Russia’s cautious outlook on change in the region. With an Islamist hailing from the Muslim Brotherhood about to assume Egypt’s presidency, nervous Israelis can only nod approvingly as Putin warns that the next leaders of Syria, were President Bashar al-Assad to fall, might be a scarier bunch.Skip to next paragraph
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To underscore his point, Putin noted to his Israeli hosts that America’s war in Iraq resulted in a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad. “These things should be thought out ahead of time before doing something one will regret later,” Putin said.
The blunt and nationalist Russian leader is also known to have a soft spot for Israel, a land where more than 1 million Russian speakers have come to reside. Putin last visited Israel in 2005, during his first term as president, and he generated positive press then by visiting his boyhood German teacher, a Soviet Jew who emigrated to Israel.
For these reasons, Putin must have felt he had an opening to offer his “look before you leap” advice on Iran.
During a meeting with Mr. Peres, Putin is reported to have gone further than his public statements, saying, “Look at what happened to the Americans in Afghanistan and in Iraq. I told [President] Obama the same thing” when the two leaders met earlier this month on the margins of a G20 summit in Mexico, he reportedly added.
After a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Putin issued a statement saying their conversation covered Iran and Syria, and that he expressed the opinion that negotiations are the only answer to such crises.
In his own statement, Mr. Netanyahu emphasized commonalities with his guest, saying, “I believe we should be doing two things now: boosting the sanctions [on Iran] and also boosting the demands” issued to Tehran in talks between Iran and world powers.
Those powers include Russia. Israel’s message to Putin, more subtle than the Russian president’s, is that Russia can and should do more to influence its friends in Tehran, so that the military action it sees as not “that smart” might yet be avoided.
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