While Putin and Bibi Speak, Syria Installs Latest Russian Air Defense System Near Damascus

According to the Israeli media, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian President Vladamir Putin held a phone conversation in order to ensure that Russia was kept abrest of Israel’s security needs despite the latter being a part of the Iranian axis.  These types of conversations have been going on for over a year in order to minimize friction between the IDF/IAF and Russian forces in Syria.

These conversations have been promoted to the Israeli public as a way assuage fears by claiming to use Russia to help mitigate the forward movement of the Iranian axis towards the border with Israel.  The challenge with this sort of thinking is that we see that after the fall of Beit Jinn, Russia has done little to keep Iran and Hezbollah outside the deconfliction zone.

The other pervading theory is that Israel has a deal worked out with Putin that the IAF is allowed to attack Hezbollah, Iranian, or even Syrian positions within Syria if they are deemed a threat to Israel. Yesterday’s installation of the Russian S-125 Pechora Batteries (a Soviet-designed system originally built in the 1960s) in the Marj Ruhayyil airbase located south of Damascus puts to rest this line of thinking.

According to AMN the modernized variant in question is reportedly the M2 version of the S-125 Pechora, “which in addition to having an improved kill probability record, is technically capable of tracking and intercepting low-flying cruise missiles.

Why is this important? The assumption has been that the IAF would be able to attack Syrian-Hezbollah-Iranian forces with impunity.  The Russians clearly have other ideas.

Does Putin Want to Destroy Israel?

Not at all. He wants to use the Iranian axis he has been tacitly covering for to hold Israel at bay and force its government to turn to him for its needs. While the situation is not at that point yet, it is rapidly approaching.  The Trump administration of course understands this and appears to be ready to back up Israel.  The Jerusalem announcement was as much part of Trump’s calculus in relation to Russia’s moves as it was a declaration of support that flowed from his own beliefs.  For Trump the two aligned.

With more and more IDF forces quietly being moved North, the stakes are high on both sides of the Golan.  Russia’s play at attempting to militarily isolate Israel by using forces hellbent on its destruction is a gamble that could trigger a far wider war.