Amos Yadlin and Carmit Valensi argue that although Vladimir Putin’s precise goals in Syria are unclear, he either intends to maintain Bashar al-Assad’s control over all or part of the country or to replace him with someone who will remain loyal to existing alliances with Russia and Iran. None of these outcomes serves Israel’s interests:
If once there was hope that the [Syrian] regime would collapse in the course of events, without Israeli intervention, Russia’s active support for Assad weakens the chances of ousting him. . . . Russian involvement underscores the need to examine the issue at the systemic level rather than at the level of individual actors. The system—the radical axis—includes Iran, Syria, and Hizballah, with Russia, at least for now, seen as [its] sponsor. Hizballah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has stressed the stability of the Assad regime as a condition for the survival of the radical axis. . . .
The members of the radical axis and Russia share intelligence and a systemic rationale, providing a foundation for coordination between the Russian aerial force and Iran-Syria-Hizballah ground forces. If [Assad remains in power], Israel will find itself in an inferior strategic position because Russia’s involvement is liable to provide a seal of approval for Iranian activity in Syria in years to come, as well as for Hizballah forces armed with the best of Russia’s weapons on Syrian soil. . . .
Israel must gear up for active efforts to topple Assad, based on the understanding that, beyond the moral imperative, Assad’s ouster will lead to a strategic loss for Iran and Hizballah in the bleeding Syrian state.