Russia sends veiled threat to Israel, US over Iranian weapons depot blast

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Blinken when the two met that he planned to visit Kyiv in the near future.

 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give a joint press conference, on January 30, 2023 (photo credit: RONALDO SCHEMIDT/POOL VIA REUTERS)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give a joint press conference, on January 30, 2023

Russia appeared to issue a veiled threat against Israel and the United States on Monday when it condemned an attack on an Iranian weapons depot, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Pentagon press secretary Brig.-Gen. Patrick Ryder has said no US military forces were involved in the explosion at Isfahan over the weekend. Israel, as is its policy in such attacks, has neither denied nor confirmed its involvement.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, however, alleged that Israel was behind the attack. There is speculation that the facility was connected either to Iran’s nuclear program or to its production of the kind of missiles or drones that could have been shipped to Moscow for its war against Ukraine.

The attack occurred as CIA Director William Burns was in Israel.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday: “We strongly condemn any provocative efforts that have the potential to provoke an uncontrolled escalation of tensions in a region that’s far from being peaceful as it is,” according to a statement published by the TASS news agency.

“Such destructive actions could have unpredictable consequences for peace and stability in the Middle East,” it said. “That has to be understood by the organizers of the brazen raid, their backers and those who are gloating over the issue, holding on to the futile hope for the weakening of Iran.”

Pundits have presumed that the “organizers” the Russian Foreign Ministry referenced in its statement was Israel and that the “backers” it spoke of referred to the Biden administration.

Bliken, Netanyahu look to cooeprate against Iran

In Jerusalem, Blinken and Netanyahu looked to strengthen their cooperation against Iran. They met as international opposition to the Islamic Republic has grown and as the White House recognizes that the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal, can no longer be relied on to halt Tehran’s development of nuclear weapons.

“Most of the international community have seen the true face of Iran,” Netanyahu said as he referenced the Islamic Republic’s execution of protesters.

“I think there’s a common consensus that this regime must not acquire nuclear weapons,” he said. “We’ve had very good discussions on forging a common policy, on trying to work together to thwart the danger.”

 Netanyahu underscored that the policy of the Jewish state and his policy “is to do everything within Israel’s power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, and that will remain so.”

Blinken emphasized America’s “iron-clad” commitment to Israel’s security. The US has never wavered on this stance during the 75-year relationship between the two countries, he said.

The Biden administration agrees with Israel on the importance of preventing a nuclear Iran, Blinken said.

“We discussed deepening cooperation to confront and counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and beyond,” he said. “Just as Iran has long supported terrorists that attack Israelis and others, the regime is now providing drones that Russia is using to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians,” drawing a link between the battle against Iran and the one against Moscow.

Iran is arming Russia to help it in its war against Ukraine and is also arming Tehran, providing it with “sophisticated weaponry,” Blinken said.

“Russia’s ongoing atrocities only underscore the importance of providing support for all of Ukraine’s needs – humanitarian, economic and security – as it bravely defends its people and its very right to exist,” he said.

Blinken said he had discussed with Netanyahu the importance of support for Ukraine.

Israel's Eli Cohen to visit Kyiv in near future

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Blinken he planned to visit Kyiv in the near future.

“I spoke with my counterpart in Ukraine, Foreign Minister [Dmytro] Kuleba, and informed him that in the coming weeks, the Israeli Embassy in Kyiv will return to full activity,” Cohen said. “I also informed him of my plans to visit Kyiv in the near future.