The Coming Israeli-Russian War?

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon bluntly threatened the Russian Federation on Tuesday, saying that if Moscow followed through on its plan to send the S-300 air defense system to Syria, Israel would bomb the arrays. Since the systems will be accompanied by Russian experts, any Israeli strike on them could well kill Russian personnel and create a crisis between nuclear states not seen since India and Pakistan played atomic chicken in 2002.

Israel is afraid that the missiles could fall into the hands of opposition forces such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, and could be fired at civilian Israeli jets. They are likely also afraid that if the regime were on the verge of falling, they might be transferred to Hizbullah and so constrain Israeli freedom of movement in southern Lebanon.

At the same time, Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister of the Russian Federation, said that the European Union’s inability to extend the ban on exporting weapons to Syria would only accelerate shipment of the S-300s.

Ryabkov said of the air defense array,

“I can only say that we are going ahead with it. We believe that such steps go a long way to restraining some ‘hot-heads’ from exploring scenarios in which this conflict could be given an international character with participation of outside forces.”

(The European Union just failed to extend a weapons ban on Syria that was strongly supported by Sweden, Austria and the Czech Republic but opposed by France and Britain. Although the latter two have not said that they will now supply the rebels with weaponry, they may well take that step, and no longer face an impediment from the EU. Russia’s Putin is said to be angry about the change.)

Russia Today reports:

In other words, as I wrote at Truthdig, Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to shore up the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad, and increasingly sees strengthening the latter’s air defenses as key to regime survival. Such a strengthening does not help against the rebel Free Syrian Army, which has no air force, but against any future Western plan for a no-fly zone and against Israeli air strikes (interestingly Ryabkov did not mention Israel, but its actions are clear part of what Putin is pushing back against). Putin takes a very dim view of what NATO did in Libya and is determined to prevent a repeat of that intervention against a client state of Russia. He is also concerned that Israeli air strikes on Syria could weaken the fragile government in Damascus.

Unless the Russians or the Israelis blink, they have by their rhetoric put themselves on a potential war footing.

Yaalon is an Israeli Neoconservative of sorts, who was fired as Army Chief of Staff in 2005 for opposing the Israeli withdrawal of settlements from the Gaza Strip. He later joined the far right Likud Party. He has called the Palestinians a “cancer” and said Israel had to consider killing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In short, he is a bit erratic and a hothead, which is not what you would like to see in the defense minister of a nuclear-armed state.

It is hard to know how determined Moscow is on its course. Some Russian experts don’t believe that the S-300s will actually be sent, or that they can be sent before the comprehensive peace conference planned by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry. Other Russian experts are pessimistic that this conference will actually get off the ground, given the disarray in rebel ranks and ambivalence of neighboring states.

But Ryabkov seems to have been signaling that Putin is determined to prevent Western or Israeli bombings of the regime, and that is the main impetus to supplying the S-300s at this time. If he is to be taken seriously, then Putin could well call Israel’s bluff. At that point, Yaalon will have to risk escalation with Russia or quietly accept that Syria is the latter’s sphere of influence, not Tel Aviv’s. Either step will represent a big change in the geopolitics of the Middle East.

Given that both Israel and Russia are nuclear states, and given the complete US backing for Israel, conflict between those two is extremely dangerous for the world and for the United States. 1973 was probably the last time the US went on nuclear alert, and it was because of the danger that the Soviet Union might intervene in the 1973 War (in which Yaalon fought, and during which Putin was just a college student–he joined the KGB in 1975).

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57 Responses

  1. Sphere of influence? What is this, 1970? Russia& west conspire to perpetuate syrian civil war, dont count on russian guns to work, history repeats, dog eat dog world relations

  2. “Israel is afraid that the missiles could fall into the hands of opposition forces such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusras Front, and could be fired at civilian Israeli jets. They are likely also afraid that if the regime were on the verge of falling, they might be transferred to Hizbullah and so constrain Israeli freedom of movement in southern Lebanon.”
    This does not make sense. As these big weapons systems are not man portable and require logistics, support and trained crew, these are worthless to the rebel s and insurgents. Israel should be worry about the 700 ton a week worth of portable anti aircraft and anti tank weapons the rebels need and ask for.
    Could be they really don’t want Assad (Syria) to have them and shy as they are, they have you believe otherwise. Also Assad should be wise not to trust the Russian. I can even see Putin stop the shipment and sign on a UN no fly zone (for a price) if he was sure this would not give the rebels a NATO air force.

    • Nap, you are implying that Putin is basically mercenary in political persuasion. From all accounts and biographies of the man, he is not that kind of political leader. One of Putin’s trademark characteristics is a willingness to stand his ground, when circumstances seem to be against him. He is old school and retains a high sense of honor..unusual for any politician these days. Despite his tendency towards ‘benevolent’ authoritarianism in his home country of Russia, he is a man who stands his ground, as proven during the KGB office protest confrontation in East Berlin just after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the Anatoly Sobchak airport confrontation and several more. The danger of Israel threatening Russia at this poignant time in world affairs, is that they are threatening a man who doesn’t take threats very lightly. Putin will respond with fury if any Russian missile technicians are killed by Israel during the set up and training of Syrian missile crews. Israel must be extremely careful as the Russian bear will respond with violence to any perceived assault on its integrity…

      • I don’t think this is about the man. If Russia can get a believable perception on an equitable deal on missile defense and NATOs push east, or confronted with a higher price then she is willing to pay, Syria be damned.

    • I can even see Putin stop the shipment and sign on a UN no fly zone (for a price) if he was sure this would not give the rebels a NATO air force.

      I’m not sure about that. Russia clearly considers Tartus a strategic asset. It is the last remaining port on the Med friendly to Russia in a strategic sense (Cyprus is not quite in this category). They will want it kept open to them and keep the corridor open for Iran, lest the US/Israel be able to cut off Hezbollah and take them down, then feel the need to go into Iran. Russia really wants to ensure that they can keep the gas (err…monopoly of gas) flowing to Europe. Anything that threatens this is of absolute primary importance to them.

      Also, given what happend in Libya with the UN resolution and the no-fly-zone-cum-regime-change, neither Russia nor China will believe a word the west says about these matters from that point forward.

      • Since the Russian and Chinese reaction post-Libya is exactly the same as it was pre-Libya, it doesn’t make sense to view the UN mission over Libya as some kind of a turning point, but as an unusual, one-off event.

        Their hostility to collective action against dictatorships is just a reversion to the norm.

    • Absolutely correct, Hizballah cannot operate or maintain an S-300 missile system, let alone hide one. Russia will not supply anyone except authorized countries will parts and support. Russia likely can disable the missiles at will, search on [france falklands exocet code] for how that might work.

      A possible but unlikely scenario is an s-300 and crew is captured, and the captors immediately force the crew to fire the missiles before Russia can deactivate the missile system.

  3. The rhetoric coming out of Israel reminds me of the rhetoric coming out of Georgia just before Russia whacked Georgia.

    Just like the leader of Georgia, the Israeli leadership has massive ego problem and think that they can make Russia back down, but they appear to forget a few things:

    – Russia is not afraid of Israel or its nuclear weapons. If Israel attacks Russia with conventional weapons, Russia will counterattack Israel and devastate the country. If Israel tries to nuke Russia, Israel will be entirely gone within minutes. Russia is much more powerful than Israel and is perfectly willing to use that power.

    – Russia is not afraid of the US. If Israel starts a war with Russia, the US will have to quickly decide just how badly the US wants to lose, because any type of war with Russia would destroy the US economy. I suspect that in the end, the US will have to walk away and let Israel suffer the consequences of their actions.

    BTW – When the US walks away, there will be stunned silence in Israel because they think they own the US lock, stock and barrel.

    • No need for hyperventilation about the consequences of Israel attacking Russia, either with conventional or nuclear weapons. There is not a chance that Israel would launch an attack against Russia. Neither Israel nor Russia are about to go to war with each other over Syria.

      • Well, Bill, the rhetoric is very heated and they seem to be on a collision course. People sometimes fall into crisis without intending to. You wouldn’t have thought Israel would attack a Turkish ship, either.

        • It is true, Professor Cole, that nations can blunder their way into war. Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August” (among many other histories) describes how it occurred prior to World War I. Germany bore the greatest responsibility for the war, but the other participants elevated the tensions with full mobilization, “blank checks” granted, ultimatums issued, bellicose rhetoric, all leading to the outbreak of war, with Germany invading Belgium, France, and Russia.

          Such blunders and rhetoric notwithstanding, I cannot conceive of Israel or Russia carrying such activities beyond a point leading to war. While Russia considers Syria important (the naval base at Tartus, among other issues), Putin is smart enough not to take Russia to war in order to defend Assad, even if Israel ups the ante in Syria.

        • I tend to agree with Bill on this one. Israel is petulant but not crazy. They like to act when they know they have impunity. In this case, the US has NO interest in an escalation with Russia and will slap down Israel when it gets to that point. They will whine and cry and decry their decisions, but ultimately the US is not really in any position to escalate this without risking total collapse.

        • OR wh;o would have thought (or know about now) that Israel attacking the USS Liberty off shore in the 6 Day War, machine gunning our sailors as they tried to escape in life boats. Search “USS Liberty” and you will read about how LBJ buried this account

        • Professor Cole,
          Bill is right,Israel would never attack Russia,the idea is preposterous.
          In the case of the Mavi Marmara a critical decision to board was made by relatively junior officers who did not and could not understand the possible consequences.
          In the case of any possible entanglement with Russia every Israeli knows not to play with a bear unless you absolutely have to.Every possible precaution will be taken to prevent such a scenario unless it is deemed absolutely necessary.
          This is a game of posturing and brinkmanship and I am sure that Israel will find ways to adequately protect herself without causing Russia to lose face.
          An understanding between Israel,Russia and the U.S.will be reached whereby their respective critical interests will be preserved.
          Russia under Putin wants to reassert herself but like Israel and the U.S. she has no interest in fostering the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
          Both Israel and Russia prefer to see Bashar Al-Assad continue in power,their differences lie in their perspective views of hezbollah and Iran.

  4. Dear Professor Cole

    It is interesting to note that Neville Shute’s book “On the Beach” postulates that the Nuclear War that ends mankind starts in the Middle East. There is a remark that “In the end control of the nuclear strikes devolved to very junior ranks indeed.”

    Seeing as we are close to the hundredth anniversary of the events described by the German Chancellor Bethman Hollweg in his memoirs, it is worth looking for lessons. He tells us helplessly, that once mobilisation started there was no way of stopping it.

    Is there a working mechansism today to stop escalation of this Middle Eastern conflict further?

    I see no good reason for many millions to die in a dispute about the route of rival gas pipelines, and conflicting interpretations of ancient manuscripts with no application to the world of the 21st century and its real problems of water, food and clean air.

    On the other hand perhaps we are seeing an inevitable consequence of the breakdown of four empires, Turkish, British, French, and US, accompanied by the usual advent of the barbarians and the collapse of organisation, scholarship and learning

    • “On the other hand perhaps we are seeing an inevitable consequence of the breakdown of four empires, Turkish, British, French, and US”

      You forgot to mention the breakdown of the fifth empire, whose demise is perhaps most important of all given today’s context: The Soviet Union.

  5. Bibi Netanyahu may be Israel’s answer to George W. Bush, but I can’t believe even he would crazy enough to attack positions in Syria that might be occupied by Russian personnel. Granted, the S-300 air defense system in the hands of the Syrian Government would make attacking Syria by air more difficult for those forces that might try to do so. But starting a war with Russia would be disastrous. What is more, the notion that the risk of S-300 missiles falling into the hands of al-Nusra or al-Qaeda warrants an attack on Syrian positions is hard to justify.

  6. I wonder how far Putin and Bibi will go? The last time I checked the russian gas giant Gazprom signed 20 billion dollars worth of gas contracts with Israel in futures. Will Putin throw the contract away? A Norwegian exploration company has found gas off the Syrian coast, it must be a big geographical shelf because gas is also present in Cyprus and Israel. In my opinion the Russians will never give up the naval base of Tartous. Putin has drawn a line in the sand. Hence the large battle group formation off the coast of Syria. The yakult anti ship missiles that most likely have russian naval personel. If they bring in the S300 in Syria, I doubt the Russians would let the systems move inland, they will be needed to protect the coast line. You are right though Mr Cole one false move and we will have the start of WW3. The big prize is Iran, due to the oil I doubt very much that China and Russia would let her go with out a full on war.

  7. i sure hope russian decides not to proceed with just a dangerous and provocative action

    • Per numerous non-US sources, it appears that the first S-300 system is on the ground in Syria.

      Note that the systems are self contained and it takes a Russian crew less than 30 minutes to make it operational.

      It is very likely that an S-300 system is already operational in Syria.

  8. The apocalyptic christians are giddy with anticipation. Their whole worldview revolves around within a generation of the “founding” of Israel their lord and master will float down out of the sky on a white horse with a thousand angels to carry them all away to paradise. The great bear of the east plays catalyst in the blood as deap as a horse’s bridle, the destruction of 2/3 of Israel, 2/3 of the Jews, requisite to that.

    Bear in mind, those people don’t “love” Israel, they want to see it destroyed. If ever there were a group who would manipulate world events to forward their agenda this plays right into their hands.

    Yet another crusade.

      • Really…..truth is that Israel can and will defeat the Russian anti aircraft missiles,if ever necessary….you can take that to the bank

        • Perhaps, Jack, but at what cost? I have no doubt that, if Israel’s core interests depended on it, they could neutralize this system, but how many pilots and planes would Israel lose doing so?

          Air defenses function largely as a deterrent, by imposing an unacceptable cost.

    • Which S-300 ?

      I saw video this morning of an Israeli Minister tearing up as he worried that the “S-300” has a “range” of “200, 300 km,” which would extend to the airspace over Ben Guron Airport.
      Wikipedia lists 15 different missiles and 8 different target acquisition radars that can be part of a “S-300” battery. Missile ranges are from 2 km up to 200; radar ranges are a little bigger.
      Maybe Binyamin Nathan-yahu should be offering concessions to influence how new and how capable the S-300’s that go to Syria are.

      By my reckoning, Golan Heights are about 50 miles / 80 km from Ben Gurion and Yarushalam, a little less to Tel Aviv and Joffa.

    • Per NATO test with a “borrowed” older version S-300, YES.

      Remember, Israel is used to having complete control of the skies and when Israeli aircraft and pilots start falling from the sky it will cause massive social problems in Israel.

  9. It’s a bit of a mystery to me why the Russians are so committed to Assad. I don’t see Syria, even when it was an intact state, had all that much to offer on behalf of Russian interests. Going forward, the best the Assad regime can hope for is to survive in shaky control of part of Syrian territory, as an international pariah, with a crippled economy. Why it’s so important to Putin to hold on to such wreckage as an ally seems to me entirely unclear. I would think the Russians had much more important matters on which to stake their geopolitical capital.

    Any thoughts on this?

    • “I don’t see Syria, even when it was an intact state, had all that much to offer on behalf of Russian interests. Any thoughts on this?”

      The Russian naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus gives Russia a naval presence and home port in the Mediterranean.

      • I don’t see why they necessarily need Assad to hold on to that. They can make a deal with somebody else if need be. Anyway how important is it? Is having to sail through the Straits of Gilbraltar if they want ships in the Med that big of a deal?

        • If not Assad, Who? What other country on the Mediterranean littoral would welcome a Russian naval base?

          Regarding its importance, having a home port on the Mediterranean is far more advantageous for maintaining a Mediterranean presence than home-porting thousands of miles away and sending naval vessels in and out via Gibraltar.

        • If nothing else, having to pass through the Straits would close the Med to the Russian Navy were they to fall out with Great Britain.

        • Cervantes,

          The question isn’t how important Mediterranean access actually is for Russia, but how much they value it.

          Securing access to the Mediterranean Sea has been a high priority for every Russian government for centuries.

    • I discussed all this in the Truthdig article to which I linked.

      It is more about making a stand on Russian spheres of influence, reassertion as great power.

      Eastern Orthodox church not irrelevant.

      • The West has spent a decade making dire warnings about the dangers of radical Islam.
        Maybe Putin believed our warnings ?
        He does, after all, have a much larger Muslim population, and greater proximity to the low-grade ongoing war.

        To a Russian, it might look like the CIA has been working since before 1979 to build up the forces of Salafist terror to counter Soviet, and then Russian, influence.
        The CIA / MOSSAD collaboration with Erik Prince, the immediate progenitor of this current Syrian war, might look like more of the same, when observed from Volgograd, or Rostov-on-Don, or Grozny.

        American male hitchhikers can trek unnoticed and unmolested the 350 miles from Syria to Russia in a week. Maybe Vlad thinks that men with less harmless intentions could, too ?

    • Vietnam didn’t hold much interest for the USA oil..not much manufacturing..few natural resources etc. the main value of Syria to the Russians is as a stopping point for US-Israeli-Nato hegemonism. It’s the same situation with Hezbollah..they realized that they had two choices; they could fight Salafist-Wahabism when it came knocking on their back door in Lebanon, which would be strategically restrictive, or they could fight them in Syria, keeping the fight at a distance and providing a defence in depth through Syria..

  10. Russia views this as payback time for Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Libya. This is war between the USA and Russia.

    • It’s interesting to watch a one-sided Cold War.

      Checking the United States is still as central to Russian foreign policy as it was in 1980, but checking Russian influence is meaningless to the US.

      • One-sided?

        How many nukes are still aimed across the oceans at our mutually-assuredly-destroyable populations? Who’s spying on whom? Who’s still “on the ground” with fun’n’games in the margins of the former USSR, stirring up trouble, doing industrial espionage, and a whole lot more?

        Yeah, “checking Russian influence” is so meaningless that google shows gaggles of papers and conferences and stuff from “serious people” on all sides of the Overton Black Hole that say exactly the other thing? “Meaningless” activity, at significant public expense, out of the enormous, dead-end-momentum of the whole tribal Cold War thing? or just out of stupid Game-of-Risk HABIT? Or because it is, might one say, very cost-plus-whatever-you-can-steal-contract “profitable?”

        Gee, are any of the “scenarios” the War department runs, I was going to say “world without end” but THAT obviously ain’t its fate, that “involve” the Rooskies? Do the Vulture-Vampire-Squid-Capitalist-Class Attack Submarines who threaten our shores from bases on Manhattan Island have any concerns about them Rooskies cruising just miles off our shores, all hair-trigger ready to launch homing torpedoes at “our” submarines? link to

        How tough is the US Empire? So tough we don’t even need to notice those guys with the bear-fur hats any more?

        Because the Great Game, in its unfortunate, idiotic nature, and thanks to the persistence and disingenuity and idiocy of the Really Serious Players who take part, stuffed full of arcane lingo and acronyms and bulging with policies and dogmas, does go on, and on, and on, and on, and on, until in one way or another it stops, right?

  11. I don’t understand why people are hyperventilating. A Russian-Israeli war is not at all in the cards. The Russians are sending a message to Europe & the U.S. not to interfere – and they’re backing their words up with the (unwise) shipment of anti-aircraft weaponry in the form of S-300s to Damascus. Israel is keen to maintain its air advantage over Syria and is jawboning. But neither Israel nor Russia has any national interest in turning this into an armed conflict, despite the worst-case scenarios now being floated.

  12. There is a precedent for the Russians and Israel engaged in military conflict.

    In 1982, the Soviet Embassy in Beirut sustained heavy damage from Israeli shelling during Operation Galilee.

    At one point an Israel Defense Forces tank broke through the gate of the Soviet Embassy while firing shells.

    The Soviet Union took no action in retaliation against Israel.

    Russia is not anxious to fight Israel and Moshe Yaalon is likely just puffing to increase his right-wing persona.

  13. At the moment those S-300 Batteries, with Doppler targeting array, as well range of 200 kilometers arrive in Syria any! & all IDF jets shall become vulnerable, meaning Israel will lose the total air superiority it has enjoyed since 1967. Gulf States, EU, US/NATO & Israel have sought! war on Syria a nation which poses no threat to them,they shall all learn the sad, sanguine lesson of being careful! of what you wish for you may get it.

  14. Dear Professor Cole

    I notice none of your correspondents have mentioned that the S-300 batteries will provide an air defence umbrella over Lebanon too, at least as far as the mountains.

    This will avoid the distressing tendency of the Israeli Air Force to violate Lebanese Air Space and bomb Beirut and Southern Lebanon.

    Neither have they mentioned the possibility that the resumption of supply of the missiles and systems to Syria may be a precedent for the supply of the same systems to Iran who had also ordered some, but whose supply was suspended at the Israeli’s request.

    Curiously enough restricting the IAF’s freedom of action may be a boon for the US. They were referred to in University of Exeter analysis of the UK options for the Syrian situation as a wild card or loose cannon. This characterisation seems borne out by their lunatic threats against the Russians.

    • When Iran could not get an S-300 system directly from Russia, they “acquired” one from another source and have cloned it. The early production systems are currently in final test and should be deployed soon.

      And yes, the S-300 systems in Syria will, per the IDF, cover Lebanon, Syria and northern Israel. This means whatever flies over northern Israel will be tracked. Depending on the version of the S-300 in use, an S-300 can typically track 100+ objects in real time and target a significant portion of those. In practical terms, this will mean civilian aircraft taking off from Ben Gurion airport will will have use runway 26 (to the west) or make a sharp right turn to the south if they use runway 08 (east), to avoid appearing to be a military aircraft. The sharp right turn off runway 08 might cause some larger aircraft to get close to Jordanian airspace. Note that Ben Gurion is a shared civilian/military airport, but the military uses runways 03 (north-east) and 21 (south-west). I suspect that Rosh Pina Airport (in the north) might have to be shut down, but the amount of traffic is very small (less than 16,000 passengers in 2011). The rest of Israel’s civilian airports are on the coast or further south.

      Another problem for Israel may be the huge increases in insurance premiums for any plane that flies into Ben Gurion now. Many of the non-Israeli carriers may have to re-think whether Israel is an economically viable destination. Just having the S-300 system active in Syria and that area being a war zone, may significantly decrease the ability of people to fly into or out of Israel (effectively a defacto partial economic blockade of Israel).

      Multiple S-300 system in Syria will indeed handcuff Israel.

      • Thanks

        Of course being able to monitor Israeli bases in the North will force any attack on Iran to fly the long route to the South across Saudi teritorry or up along the Gulf. This means the attacking aircraft will be short of fuel.

        Now that the Iranians know which way they will be coming and may have early warning of an attack from changes in the civilian air traffic patterns at Ben Gurrion the casualty rate of an attack, already predicted to be 30% will rise.

        I wonder if the Russians will sell Iraq S-300 too?

        Bombing Damascus a few weeks ago really was a silly mistake by the Israelis.

  15. According to the BBC the first shipment has already arrived, so this could be coming to a head rather soon. What is Russia going to do if Israel attacks these missiles, given that they probably cannot project conventional force into the Middle East, and that Israel is nuclear armed?

    • Russia can easily project both conventional and nuclear force into the Middle east. Remember they have lots of TU-95 and TU-160 long range bombers that can easily reach the US, so bombing Israel is NOT a problem. Russia also has lots of cruise missiles, MRBM that can reach Israel and ICBMs. Russia has all the long range military capability the US and China have.

      If Israel responds to a conventional bombing by Russia with nuclear force, Israel will disappear within hours and the US will be forced to either have nuclear war with Russia and China or sit down and shut up. I suspect that Americans will choose to live and will sit down and shut up, rationalizing that the Israelis were fools to attack Russia.

      Israel has only one option, sit down and shut up because using any force against Russia will be met with even more force. Russia is vastly more powerful than Israel and Russia is NOT afraid of the US. Israel has reached the limits of their military and is now in a deep hole.

      Unfortunately the Israeli Hubris is enormous and they delusionally think they can control the entire world, so they just may be foolish enough to attack Russia.

  16. How exactly are these missile defense systems being taken to Syria? By sea or by air? The large numbers of vehicles in the system leads me to expect naval shipping is required. How fast is this, and from what home port? If by air cargo transport (faster), what route would the flights have to take? I don’t see how the Russians would get permissions to cross the air spaces between themselves and Syria. Or how they could quickly fly so much large equipment. The whole process would seem on the surface to require a substantial transport effort that would be trackable by aerial reconnaissance. You’d think if the Israelis were intent upon interdicting these shipments, they would do so en route or immediately upon arrival. I don’t know if they think they’re invulnerable to any retribution if they do so, which would be a new level of arrogance for even them.

  17. PS: Also, exactly how many battalions are we talking about, and at what level of resupply? Is this going to be a one-shot weapon of very limited means, or a true, sustainable, comprehensive air defence system? And how well trained would the Syrians need to be to handle it competently and how long would that take.

    There’s more to the military angle of all this than I am reading in the media to date.

  18. PPS: And also, is part of Israel’s unhappiness due to the possibility that if Syrian airspace is no longer easily penetrable, the avenues of aerial attack on Iran (across northern Syria) are significantly reduced?

  19. If Israel considers an S-300 system a serious threat, and I have no reason to think they are bluffing, I expect they will destroy them.

    Hezbollah is joined at the hip with the Assad regime, of course it is possible that the weapons could be transferred.

    I don’t think the fact that Russia has put some of their military people at risk in the middle of a hot war zone weighs heavily in Israeli calculations.

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