Russia seeks to take mediator role between Israel and Iran

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that "all issues should be solved through dialogue." (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2018

Russia seeks to take mediator role between Israel and Iran

MOSCOW: Following Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, Russia has positioned itself as a mediator between the Middle Eastern rivals as it has maintained good relations with both countries.
“The Kremlin is sitting on two chairs,” Russian analyst Alexei Malashenko told AFP.
“It is a complex and difficult situation for Russia that has links with both of the sworn enemies.”
Israel carried out raids on dozens of Iranian military targets on Thursday after it said around 20 rockets were fired from Syria at its forces in the occupied Golan Heights.
Russia was quick to call for restraint, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying on Thursday that “all issues should be solved through dialogue.”
He added that Russia had warned Israel to avoid “all actions that could be seen as provocative” the day before the strikes, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin.
Russian analyst Fyodor Lukyanov said relations between Putin and Netanyahu were “very good” and that the meeting, on the eve of the strikes, showed Russia could play a major role in the Israel-Iran dispute.
“Moscow could use its good relations with the two countries to help them communicate and make sure confrontation does not exceed certain limits,” Lukyanov said.
Russia has become a major player in the Middle East since intervening in the Syrian war on the side of the Damascus regime in September 2015. Analysts also highlight its role as mediator in other conflicts in the area.
“The role of Russia as a mediator is strongly appreciated in the region. This role will be reinforced if the crisis between Israel and Iran worses,” said Alexander Krylov, a foreign policy expert at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
Krylov told AFP that Russia’s “additional value” is that it has good relations with forces that other actors refuse to speak to such as with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and the Kurds.
Russia’s good ties to Israel were demonstrated by Netanyahu’s visit, he said.
“I do not rule out the idea that Israel gave some clues to Russia about the strikes,” Krylov said.
But even if Russia considers Israel’s security concerns over Iran legitimate, Lukyanov said, it sees Iran as an “indispensable partner on many issues, especially in Syria.”
Russia, Iran and Turkey regularly meet to discuss the regulation of the Syrian war, where the three countries have positioned themselves as major players.
Unlike Turkey, Iran and Moscow are unflinching allies of the Bashar Assad regime and often maintain a united diplomatic front.
Analyst Alexei Malashenko said Russia would do everything possible to maintain relations with both Israel and Iran without taking a stand, especially since Israel’s strikes “do not threaten” Moscow’s position in Syria.
“If Israel were to defy Russia’s dominant role, Russia would react and take a stand. This is unlikely to happen because Israel knows Russia defines the rules in Syria,” said Lukyanov.
But if escalation continues, Moscow will find it difficult to keep playing a mediator’s role.
“Even with the best intention, nobody can bring Iran and Israel to the same table,” said Malashenko.
He added that Russia is also closely watching Washington’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal, which the Kremlin has opposed. On Thursday Moscow said it would continue a “close collaboration” with Iran on the agreement.
Lukyanov said it may not have been coincidental that the Israeli strikes took place shortly after US President Donald Trump announced his country’s withdrawal from the deal.
“Iran’s enemies can only be inspired by this decision: there is a very strong anti-Iranian sentiment,” Lukyanov said. “Increased US pressure on Iran has certainly helped Israel fulfill its agenda.”


Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

A woman holds a sign during a protest against the execution of Rodney Reed on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Bastrop, Texas. (AP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

  • Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed

WASHINGTON: A Texas appeals court has suspended the execution of convicted murderer Rodney Reed — who has long claimed his innocence — in a case that has attracted widespread public attention and a celebrity-backed campaign.
Reed, a 51-year-old African-American, was sentenced to death in 1998 after being convicted by an all-white jury of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman.
His execution by lethal injection had been set for November 20, but Reed says he did not commit the crime, and his lawyers and supporters say that evidence proves he is innocent.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles announced on Friday that it had “voted unanimously to recommend the governor grant a 120-day reprieve” to Reed, who had appealed for clemency.
The state appeals court then halted the execution later in the evening.
Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed.
Kardashian said on social media she was with Reed when he received news about the reprieve.
Although traces of Reed’s DNA were found in the victim, he has always maintained that he and Stites were secretly having an affair.
Reed’s lawyers say that evidence obtained after the trial points to another suspect — the victim’s fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a former policeman who later served a 10-year prison sentence for another rape.
“The strong evidence exonerating Mr.Reed and implicating Fennell continues to mount,” the lawyers wrote in the clemency petition lodged with the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott.
In the clemency request, they included a testimonial from a former co-worker of the victim who confirmed the affair.
According to another affidavit, a former prison inmate said he heard Fennell brag during a prison yard conversation about committing the murder.
Fennell has denied involvement in Stites’ murder.
The Texas board declined Reed’s request to downgrade his sentence.
His lawyers also have filed a petition with the US Supreme Court, seeking a stay of execution.