Iran says it’s likely to send Syria air defenses, after latest alleged Israeli strike

State TV says Tehran expected to ship ‘radars and defense missiles’ to its ally in Damascus; White House warns Russia may supply fighter jets to Iran as their security ties grow

This photo released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on Sunday, June 9, 2019, shows the Khordad 15, a new surface-to-air missile battery at an undisclosed location in Iran. The system uses locally made missiles that resemble the HAWK missiles that the US once sold to the shah and later delivered to the Islamic Republic in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)
Illustrative: This photo released by the official website of the Iranian Defense Ministry on June 9, 2019, shows the Khordad 15, a new surface-to-air missile battery at an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Iran will likely send air defense systems to Syria, Iranian state television reported Friday, a move apparently meant to protect against Israeli airstrikes.

“Syria needs to rebuild its air defense network and requires precision bombs for its fighter planes,” the Iranian state broadcaster said, according to Reuters.

“It is very likely that we will witness the supply by Iran of radars and defense missiles, such as the 15 Khordad system, to reinforce Syria’s air defenses,” it added.

The state TV report follows an airstrike in Damascus last weekend that was attributed to Israel, which the news agency on Wednesday said targeted a meeting of Syrian and Iranian officials involved with the manufacture of drones, as well as members of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Syria has said five people were killed and 15 wounded in the attack on Saturday night. The Israeli military has not commented on the strike, per its policy of not generally commenting on air raids in Syria, though it has acknowledged conducting hundreds of sorties against Iran-backed groups attempting to gain a foothold in the country over the last decade. Israeli officials have previously said the IDF does not target civilians and seeks to avoid damage to residential areas as much as possible.

“The strike hit the center where they were meeting as well as an apartment in a residential building. One Syrian engineer and one Iranian official — not high-ranking — were killed,” an unnamed source close to the Syrian government told Reuters.

A large hole is seen in the Kafar Sousah neighborhood of Damascus, after an alleged Israeli airstrike on Syria, February 19, 2023. (SANA)

Iran’s foreign ministry condemned the strike on Sunday, but did not mention any Iranian casualties.

It was also denounced by Russia, which like Iran is a key backer of the Syrian regime in the over decade-long civil war, as a “flagrant violation” of international law.

Israel’s need to coordinate with Russia — which largely controls Syrian airspace — to carry out strikes has been cited as a chief reason for Jerusalem’s reluctance to supply Kyiv with weaponry amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Israel has found itself at odds with Russia as it increasingly supported Ukraine while seeking to maintain freedom of movement in Syria’s skies.

Also Friday, the White House said Russia is considering sending fighter jets to Iran as part of an expanding military cooperation that has seen Tehran ship growing quantities of weaponry to Moscow for use in the invasion of Ukraine.

“We believe that Russia might provide Iran unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics and air defense. We believe that Russia might provide Iran with fighter jets,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Illustrative: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Kirby said Iran, which is deeply isolated by Western sanctions aimed at halting its disputed nuclear program, was seeking to bolster its military with Russian help in exchange for sending armaments used in the year-long onslaught against Ukraine.

“Iran is also seeking to purchase additional military equipment from Russia, including attack helicopters, radars and combat training aircraft. In total, Iran is seeking billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment,” Kirby said.

“We were concerned it was going to go both ways, and those concerns are certainly being realized,” he said.

According to Kirby, Iran has already sent hundreds of drones, as well as artillery and tank ammunition, to Russia, saying that “Iran’s support for Russia’s war has expanded.”

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