Russia says it will soon deliver new air defense systems to Syria
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Russia says it will soon deliver new air defense systems to Syria

Moscow doesn’t specify model, though officials have recently said S-300 could be transferred to Assad; Israel has warned it would destroy system if it is used against IAF jets

A Russian-made S-300 air defense system on display for the annual Defense Week, marking the 37th anniversary of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, September 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A Russian-made S-300 air defense system on display for the annual Defense Week, marking the 37th anniversary of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, September 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Russia will supply the Syrian regime with new air defense systems in the near future, the RIA news agency reported Wednesday, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.

The report did not specify what type of systems Moscow will give its Damascus ally.

On Monday, the Russian daily Kommersant reported that Moscow was getting closer to delivering its S-300 missile defense system to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, despite Israel’s efforts to prevent it. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman responded by saying that if the powerful S-300 was used against Israeli jets, the system would be destroyed.

The Russian Foreign Ministry later denied parts of the report, saying that a decision about the transfer of the S-300 had yet to be made.

Defense analysts have questioned whether an S-300 system in Syrian hands could threaten Israel’s air power in the region and prevent it from being able to conduct strikes against targets in Syria.

Russian military sources told Kommersant that if Israel tried to destroy the anti-aircraft batteries, it would be “catastrophic for all sides.”

Moscow first announced that it was considering reversing its longtime policy against supplying the S-300 system to the regime following a series of airstrikes against Syrian targets by the United States, United Kingdom and France earlier this month in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Assad.

Speaking to the Ynet news site on Wednesday, Russaian Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein stressed that Israel was not the intended target of any defense system delivery.

Russia had originally agreed to sell the system to Syria in 2010, but scrapped the plan at Israel’s behest.

According to Kommersant’s report, Russia will not be selling Assad the S-300 system, but rather providing it at no cost as part of a military aid package in order to hasten the delivery.

Israeli F-35 fighter flies during an aerial show at a graduation ceremony for soldiers who have completed the IAF Flight Course, at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, December 27, 2017. ( Flash90)

The Russian-made system, made up of radar arrays and missile launchers, offers long-range protection against both fighter jets and missiles. The system has been supplied by Moscow to Tehran, and deployed by the Russian army in Syria, alongside its more advanced iteration, the S-400.

In what many saw as a direct reaction to the looming proliferation of the S-300 and other missile defense systems throughout the Middle East — but especially in Iran — Israel has purchased a fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets from the American Lockheed-Martin defense contractor.

The state-of-the-art planes are meant to offer a solution to the challenges posed by the S-300, whose radar systems can detect aircraft from some 300 kilometers (186 miles) away.

In addition to the American-led coalition’s strikes against Assad targets, Israel has increasingly carried out air raids in Syria, which it says are meant to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terrorist group and halt the military entrenchment of Iran in the country.

While Israeli officials acknowledge that these strikes are carried out in general, Jerusalem rarely takes responsibility for specific attacks.

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