The Russian-Israeli relations at a dangerous turning point


Huffington Post Greece – Sep. 26, 2018

The Russian defense ministry suddenly announced its decision to supply the Assad regime in Syria with the S-300 missile defense system within a few weeks. The meaning of this announcement from Moscow is clear about Tel Aviv ‘s responsibility for the fall of the IL-20 aircraft, where 15 Russian officers were killed. This decision comes two days after the Israeli Air Force commander’s visit to Moscow in an attempt by Israel to explain the causes of the incident. But this strong reaction of Russia clearly shows the failure of this visit. This dangerous escalation is not a threat to Tel Aviv alone but will directly affect the US Air Force.The S-300 system is extremely sophisticated and in the hands of the Assad army it can affect any Western and American plan to hit Iran in the future. What really happened between Moscow and Tel Aviv and why did things reach this point?

On the 17th of this month, the Syrian coast viewd an important development that could directly affect the relations between Tel Aviv and Moscow.

At 22:00 am Damascus, four F-16s of the Israeli Air Force based on intelligence and supported by a surveillance ship located in international waters off the coast of Syria launched eight missiles against several land targets in Latakia. Sounds of explosions were also hear in the area of ​​Tartus and west of the city of Homs. Within 15 minutes, Israeli aircraft returned safely to their base. At one after midnight, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it had lost contact with an IL-20 surveillance aircraft, which was attended by 14 Russian soldiers at the same time of the Israeli attack. Soon the evidence that appeared showed that the Russian aircraft was accidentally shot off by the Assad regime. We must focus on the details of this technical event because its effects will give us a picture of the current relations between Russia and Israel.

With the onset of the Russian military intervention in Syria at the end of September 2015, Moscow placed Israel’s satisfaction as a priority. It set up an operation room for direct co-operation between the Russian Khmeimim base on the Syrian coast and Tel Aviv and the coordination of the two countries’ actions in Syria. Israel has emphasized from the outset that it has the right to target any military threat to its national security, and already, and according to the Israeli Defense Ministry, over the last year and a half, the Israeli air force has hit more than 200 military targets in Syria, including Assad, Iranian  Revolutionary Guards,  Lebanese militia Hezbollah and Iraqi militias. Also included are military technological facilities, chemical weapons development centers and air defense systems of Syria and Iran. Under the agreed protocol for such strikes, Tel Aviv warns Moscow 60 minutes before each attack, so that no conflict will occur in the air and no injuries occur to Russian soldiers. But what happened on the coast of Syria with Tel Aviv to warn Moscow just one minute before the attack has more political connotation.

The Israeli side, in an agreement with Moscow, stopped targeting Assad forces or their logistics bases. Airborne and missile strikes focused on an area belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and on weapons that could be transferred to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, as Assad is not a direct threat to Israeli national security. Tel Aviv also gave the green light to Moscow and Assad to control the provinces of Daraa and Quneitra in southern Syria and facilitated their entry through the Syrian opposition militias in the area supported by Israel. But the failure of the Russian-Israeli co-operation as a result of Moscow’s inability to control Iran in Syria and prevent the signing of an agreement with Assad during the recent visit by the Iranian Defense Minister to Damascus that gives Iran the ability to build three military bases in the cities of Aleppo and Homs, led the IDF to return to direct shots against important positions of Assad.

It is certain that Moscow can not impose its view on Tehran, as it is also certain that it is unable to prevent Tel Aviv from reacting to the Iranian influence in Syria. Therefore, Moscow faces a difficult choice: either to remain in the middle of this conflict and, as happened on the Syrian coast, to face losses or to retreat and retain its profits by pushing more towards a political solution in Syria. The atmosphere in the eastern Mediterranean with the growing concentration of NATO forces shows that the degree of conflict in the region can get a more dangerous turn, bigger than Syria. Every mistake can be a reason for a new world war. The next few days will further clarify the future of co-operation between Moscow and Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu has previously threatened to hit the S-300 system when it reaches the Assad regime. Tel Aviv also confirmed hours after Moscow’s announcement it would continue to attack any military target that could be a direct threat to its national security, whether Assad, Iran or Hezbollah. After all, Moscow has a prior knowledge of this issue. Therefore, there are two ways to interpret this step: either it is a communication political move within Russia to restore its prestige after the IL-20 aircraft downing, and in this case it will bring the system to Syria, but will be under Russian command, or that Moscow is actually moving towards escalation by demonstrating its strength especially after the extensive concentration of NATO forces in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in general, which means that the next few weeks will be enough to show where things are going.