Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday October 20, 2023
Putin and Iran’s Calculated Exploitation of Israel-Palestine Crisis
It’s no coincidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran, his pro-Hamas and Hezbollah funding ally, are capitalizing on the turmoil between Israel and Palestine to further their agenda. Their strategy? To sow chaos in the West by drawing them into the conflict and diverting attention away from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Iran’s proxy involvement in the destruction of Ukrainian lives through missile attacks.
The timing of their maneuvers couldn’t be more perfect for Putin, who finds himself celebrating his birthday while hundreds of Hamas militants enter Israel, resulting in the tragic loss of over 1,300 innocent civilians. For Moscow, the primary goal right now is to distract the world from its military aggression in Ukraine, where it has been involved in untold atrocities. To that end, they are actively working to undermine the United States and its allies, and the crisis in Israel serves their interests perfectly.
While we lack concrete proof that Russian leaders had prior knowledge of the Hamas attacks, there’s no doubt that the Kremlin is seizing this opportunity. Russia has escalated its support for Hamas through diplomacy and a propaganda offensive. Additionally, it’s using this crisis to ratchet up violence in Ukraine while the global community remains distracted. Senior Hamas official Ali Baraka even lauded Russia’s support in a recent interview with Russia Today, a state-controlled media outlet, acknowledging that Russia is content to see the United States embroiled in the Palestinian conflict, as it relieves pressure on Russia in Ukraine. It’s a cynical game of one war easing the pressure of another.
While the precise extent of Russia’s military support for Hamas remains uncertain, there are telltale signs, such as Hamas being in possession of Russian licenses to manufacture Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition used in the assault. Reports have also suggested that Russia’s Wagner, a mercenary firm, may have assisted in training Hamas soldiers. Moreover, it’s believed that Palestinian terrorist groups are laundering illicit funds through a crypto exchange based in Moscow.
Although there is no confirmed direct military support from Russia to Hamas, it’s clear that the collaboration between Russia and Iran in Ukraine has indirectly benefitted Hamas. The shared technology and tactics developed in Ukraine have found their way into Hamas’s arsenal, such as armed drones used against Israeli targets.
Moreover, Moscow has turned its extensive propaganda machine into a pro-Hamas, anti-Western disinformation campaign. Even before the recent outbreak of hostilities, Russian media had been insinuating that U.S. arms meant for Ukraine ended up in the hands of terrorists plotting against Israel. Following the attack, pro-Russian videos of dubious origin circulated, accusing Ukraine of arming Hamas, some even masquerading as fake BBC reports.
Russian officials and propaganda outlets are unanimous in blaming the United States for the ongoing violence in Israel, arguing that Washington’s preoccupation with Ukraine has led to the neglect of mounting tensions in the Middle East. This is a deliberate ploy to drive a wedge in Western military support for Ukraine, demoralize Ukrainian society, and reassure Russian audiences that international society will ignore Ukraine’s war effort.
The relationship between Russia and Hamas isn’t new, with Putin hosting Hamas leaders in Moscow as early as 2006. Russia has never designated Hamas as a terrorist organization and has consistently taken a pro-Palestinian diplomatic stance. However, the recent events mark a stark departure from the previously cordial relations between Russia and Israel. Israel had been reluctant to overtly support Ukraine to avoid jeopardizing its ability to strike targets in Syria with Russia’s acquiescence. Now, Russia is committed to supporting Hamas and Iran, especially in diplomatic circles.
On October 13th, Russia introduced a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council calling for an immediate cease-fire and condemning all acts of terrorism but conspicuously omitted any reference to Hamas. In a speech, Russia’s U.N. ambassador blamed the United States for the “looming war” in the Middle East and condemned Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians, squarely putting the blame on Washington.
Putin’s emphasis on blaming the United States instead of the terrorists reveals his true objectives. His priority is not to resolve the crisis but to link it to his broader conflict against the West. It is essential to recognize that Russia, Iran, and Hamas are working together to undermine the United States, Europe, Ukraine, and Israel.
As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky highlighted in a speech to NATO, “the only difference is that there is a terrorist organization that attacked Israel, and here is a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine.”
In the coming days, President Biden will seek emergency funding for both Israel and Ukraine, and it is imperative that Congress swiftly approves both components of the package. If the United States were to abandon Ukraine by cutting off aid, Putin’s strategy would have achieved its nefarious goals. (AI)