Russia warns Israel on Syria strikes, danger to Russian Troops

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

BBC Monitoring reports on a statement in Russian at the site of its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reacting to the Israeli air attacks on Syria and the shoot-down by the Syrians of one Israeli fighter-jet.

The Foreign ministry expressed “serious concern” over the Israeli air strikes, and called for restraint. The statement inserts Russia into the issue by asserting that the Israeli air strikes could cause violence to rise in and around the “de-escalation zones,” areas where rebels and the Syrian government have an uneasy temporary truce. (While many of these zones have become a joke because of Syrian government incursions, some, like the one around Deraa, have held, and have reduced violence).

Russia asked Israel to “respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and pointed out that Tel Aviv has put Russian servicemen in danger.

As diplomatic notes go, this one is brutally frank. The demand that Israel respect Syrian sovereignty is perhaps a way of teasing the Israelis, who maintained that the Syrian shoot-down of their jet, which was striking targets inside Syria, was an “attack on Israel’s sovereignty.” Apparently Israeli sovereignty in the minds of the ruling Likud Party and cabinet allies (a Star Wars bar scene full of far-right weirdo little parties) extends beyond the still undefined Israeli borders to wherever they want it to.

Likewise, the warning that Israel should not put Russian servicemen in danger is blunt. Presumably the issue arises because Israel will attempt to destroy Syrian air defense batteries, many of them trained and advised by Russian military personnel.

BBC Monitoring also reports that according to Ynet in Hebrew, Israel called on Russia to intervene to stop Iran from flying drones in the Golan Heights area of Syria, part of which Israel militarily occupies, and on part of which it gives aid to fundamentalist Syrian rebels, one of them with al-Qaeda ties.

Israel hit 3 Syrian anti-aircraft batteries on Saturday, along with 4 targets it says are Iranian military facilities in that country, but says it has no intention to go further at this time. (I.e. Tel Aviv realizes that hitting a lot of Syrian anti-aircraft stations would in fact risk killing Russians).

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin talked by phone on Saturday, according to Russia’s Interfax. Putin discouraged Israel from actions that would further destabilize Syria. Netanyahu declared israel’s right to protect itself, by which he seems to mean its right to protect its Golan occupation and sphere of interest in Syrian Quneitra.

It seems to me that Russia increasingly has to make some decisions about the Israeli front in the southwest of Syria. Either it has to restrain Iran and Hizbullah, effectively ceding control over that part of Syria to the fundamentalist rebels and the Israeli army, or it has to take over Syrian air defense and prevent Israeli air strikes in Syria. Otherwise, as the Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out, Russian personnel are increasingly in danger.

On the Israeli side, Netanyahu, who is in danger of indictment on corruption charges, has been accused of ‘wagging the dog’ or trying to escalate tensions with Syria and Iran for political gain inside Israel.


Bonus video:

Iranian Gov’t Press TV: “Russia urges Israel to avoid any escalation”

10 Responses

  1. And FWIW, my broader analysis of Syria is that the conclusion became clear as soon as Putin decided to make Assad into his puppet (which was successful). The anti-Assad coalition was not sufficiently large to prevent Russian domination. This is essentiallly equivalent to the CIA backing the Shah of Iran against democratic forces back in the 1950s. The Russian-backed puppet state will probably last 25 years or so before it loses so much support that Russia’s backing cannot keep it going.

    • I don’t think that region can go 25 years without a war big enough to eliminate regimes and entire states. A Cold War between Saudi Arabia/Israel/US and Russia/Iran is so full of contradictory agendas and outright criminal regimes that tiny groups will keep causing incidents. One of them will escalate into the Big One because the leaders are more like the crowned buffoons of 1914 than the relatively sober bureaucrats of 1962.

  2. I’m not sure this analogy holds up. What classes of Iranian society were dedicated backers of the Shah and prepared to defend his rule, relative to his opponents? In Syria, the Alawites, various tribes, the middle classes, and Christians, numerous groups, all have reason to continue to support the Assad government and would fear any change. Plus Assad has never lost support of the military in any significant way. That’s a big plus in Assad’s favor. He has a hard core of support that’s been tested and is not going to throw in the towel now. Possibly in the long term, his family is not going to be able to maintain its rule and the Syrian state will evolve into a different form. But I wonder what will change on the ground to nullify the interests of those factions dependent on the Assad government?

    • Al-Assad’s military shrank from 300,000 to 35,000. I’d say he lost support of the military. You mean he didn’t lose the support of his brother Maher.

  3. Either Russia “has to restrain Iran and Hizbullah, effectively ceding control over that part of Syria to the fundamentalist rebels and the Israeli army, or it has to take over Syrian air defense and prevent Israeli air strikes in Syria.”

    It looks like the rebels and Israelis just took a chunk of Syria because it’s becoming increasingly evident that the much vaunted Russian anti-aircraft missiles are utterly worthless.

    Certainly the Russian diplomatic note has more chance of stopping the Israelis than an S-300 ever will.

  4. Russia is on the war path. What the heck do they have bases air and naval in Syria for? It is Russia who operates the drone base along with Iran in Syria. It is Russia who provides Syria its air defences and upgrades them to shoot down IAF jets.

    Russia is an enemy of Israel and should be treated as such. Israel should launch a mass attack on every Russian base in Syria and destroy them all. In every Arab Israeli war Russia has supported and supplied the Arabs with the goal to destroy Israel.

    Russia needs to be taught a lesson and it will come from Israel or Turkey or the USA. Putin’s lies and arrogance is the Slavic way.

  5. I know that some genuflect before Putin as the master chess player – and compared with our current POTUS, I suppose that claim has validity for now. But Russian policy in the region sounds confused. Does Putin really want to put his troops in harm’s way in order to allow Iran to pursue its anti-Israel foreign policy? That’s only going to expose Russian troops & advisors to unnecessary risks. The region is volatile enough without Iranian meddling. Reasonable to expect that message made its way from the Kremlin to Tehran.

    • del, Iran has Jewish parliamentarians so it is not anti-jew or anti-Israel, it is anti-zionist.

      I note that you decry Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria but not the Saudi/Turkish/US enablers of the terrorists who invaded in the first instance. Then the US and Turkey are currently occupying parts of Syria contrary to the most basic tenets of international law yet you blame Russia and Iran.

      At a guess I’d say that you’re a victim of western propaganda.

      • Iran has a Jewish population of only about 11,000.

        There is only one Iranian Jew serving in the Iranian parliament and his presence is only due to the requirement of the Iranian constitution mandating one Jewish delegate sitting in that legislative body.

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