An Iranian military truck carries parts of the S-300 air defense missile system during a parade on the occasion of the country's Army Day, on April 18, 2017, in Tehran. (Photo: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia Set To Deliver Advanced Missile Defense Systems To Syrian Forces

High-ranking Russian defense officials revealed that Moscow in the near future intends to deliver advanced S-300 anti-missile defense systems to Syrian forces, which could constitute a game-changer for Israel by negating its air supremacy. Israeli fighter jets have on more than 100 occasions over the past two years conducted cross-border operations to intercept weapons convoys destined for Hizbullah in Lebanon and, increasingly, to destroy Iranian military infrastructure as Tehran attempts to further entrench itself in Syria. In the latest instance, the Israeli army on April 7 targeted the Islamic Republic’s Tiyas, or T-4, base near Palmyra, an attack that reportedly killed seven members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps. Notably, Russia’s Ambassador to Beirut thereafter claimed that forces in Syria would begin shooting down missiles fired from Lebanese air space—from where Israeli warplanes generally carry out their missions—and the S-300 system would provide the Assad regime with the operational capability to do so. While Moscow reportedly already deployed advanced missile defense systems to Syria, they primarily act as a deterrent to U.S. interference. Moreover, the batteries are manned by Russian soldiers who, given Israel’s existing de-confliction mechanism with Russia coupled with Moscow’s tacit acceptance of intermittent Israeli intervention in Syria to uphold its “red lines,” have to date not utilized them to thwart IDF missions. However, should the S-300 be acquired by the Syrian army or Iranian troops, the playing field would be drastically altered. In an apparent attempt to downplay this significance, Russia’s Ambassador to Israel on Wednesday stated that Israeli strikes in Syria were not the reason for the proposed supply of the missile systems to Damascus; this, after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman affirmed in reference to the potential move, “if anyone shoots at our planes, we will destroy them.”

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