Last week’s White House meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy conveyed a clear message to the Kremlin of conviction and continued U.S. support for Ukraine.
The meeting also sent an important message to the Iranian regime, which is supplying Russia with advanced weaponry. During the meeting, Biden announced an important change in U.S. policy, stating that Washington would send advanced Patriot air defense systems to protect Ukraine from the constant barrage of aerial strikes it is facing.
In a certain sense, Biden’s move has turned the spotlight on Israel too, which to date has turned down requests to supply Ukraine with its cutting-edge Iron Dome air defense system. This is a system that during Israel’s last military conflict against Hamas succeeded in attaining an amazing success rate of 90%. Ukrainian officials have been pushing full steam ahead to obtain this system, alongside additional advanced Israeli weapon systems and capabilities. Official requests have been launched from Zelenskyy’s presidential office, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Ukrainian embassy in Israel.
Israel’s hesitance stems from a number of extremely important concerns. The main concern is that the deployment of Iron Dome in Ukraine will almost certainly lead to the system and/or its key components falling into Russian hands.
In such an event, it is certain that the system would be sent to Iran for in-depth analysis, as Russia is heavily indebted to Tehran for its current support. Iranian examination of the system might enable the Islamic regime to find methods of contending with it, as it comprises a key component in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran’s proxies.
Such technological findings would also undoubtedly be of considerable benefit to Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in their armed conflicts against Israel. This is a risk that the outgoing government made clear it is simply not willing to take, and the incoming government would appear to be adopting a similar policy.
Another issue is the inherent difficulty involved in Israel supplying such systems, as the IDF itself has an ongoing need to acquire additional Iron Dome systems and interceptors. This is a direct result of the continuous expansion of Hezbollah and Hamas’ arsenals—despite Israel’s successful attempts to prevent or considerably reduce them—Iran’s efforts to ship arms to them and these organizations’ indigenous weapon systems production capabilities.
Any significant increase in Israel’s production capacity, especially to provide Ukraine with the scope of arms it requires, in view of its geographic deployment, would take an extremely long time. Moreover, the amount of time required for training the Ukrainian forces to operate the Iron Dome would plainly hamper Kyiv’s ability to phase the systems into service in the short term. Though it is understandable why Ukraine wants the system so badly, it would probably be much easier for the U.S. to train the Ukrainian forces to operate Patriot batteries.
Lastly, Israel does not want to trigger a strong Russian response to such a move. Russia still has an extremely significant presence in Syria, where according to foreign reports, Israel is engaged in constant action to curb the Iranian efforts to establish an extensive military foothold in the country, as well as Tehran’s trafficking of advanced weapon systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
There are numerous reports indicating that Russia is withdrawing both forces and air defense systems from Syria and redeploying them in Ukraine. Moscow has also ceased to assist in the maintenance of Damascus’ air defense systems due to a shortage of spare parts and has even refused to replace some systems that were either badly damaged or destroyed by the Israeli Air Force.
Having said that, Russia is not leaving Syria, and its military presence there will continue to be a long-term issue with which Israel will have to contend. Jerusalem is also concerned about reports that Damascus has asked Iran and North Korea to supply it with air defense systems in place of Russia.
Iran’s involvement in the Russia-Ukraine war has shed new light on an alliance that poses a strong challenge to the interests of the U.S., Europe and the majority of like-minded states worldwide. At this stage, it is evident to almost everybody that the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran is dead, a term Biden recently used himself, even if he currently refuses to make an official statement to that effect.
Logically, the official and final burial of the agreement by the countries that are signatory to it is the correct approach, alongside the activation of the “snapback” mechanism triggering the reinstatement of sanctions on Iran.
It is also imperative to punish the Iranian regime for its blatant breaches of human rights, including the killing of women and young girls in its bloody attempts to quell ongoing protests, while supporting similar killing in Ukraine. Iran should not be allowed to stabilize economically. On the contrary, it is crucial to weaken the regime in any manner possible.
This will help Israel, but also Ukraine and the U.S., in a combined effort to defeat both Russian and Iranian aggression.