Tension Again on the Upswing; Russia Apparently Respecting Israeli Security Needs
Despite the recent upswing in tension between Israel and Russia over Iranian and Syrian activities, President Vladimir Putin apparently loosened the reins and allowed Israel to attack a new arms shipment arriving in Damascus from Iran. According to media reports, the new S-300 defensive system Russia provided to Syria was not activated while the Israeli operation was underway. For its part, the Iranians appear to be keeping a finger on Russia’s pulse in the region, seemingly treading carefully with its deliveries of arms into Damascus en route to Hizbullah, its terror proxy in Beirut. Some pundits suggest it’s merely a demonstration of patience because once U.S. forces are withdrawn from Syria, a clear course will be forged from Damascus to Beirut that will facilitate the transfer of arms. The fallback position articulated to downplay the impact of the American pullout – that troops stationed in Afghanistan could cover any crisis in Syria that demands U.S. intervention – has been thrown into doubt with later talk of President Trump’s intention to pull out his troops there, as well. The president’s suggestion that U.S. aid to Israel covers the threat is being met with a variety of reactions, mostly amazement that the Syrian theater is being gifted to Messrs. Putin and Erdogan. Meanwhile, the Israeli announcement that its army has discovered still another Hizbullah tunnel – the fifth – has ratcheted up tension on that northern border as well. The Israeli rumor mill is rife with talk about its army making plans to launch an operation aimed at the Hizbullah infrastructure, but few take it seriously with a general election now scheduled for April 9.