Russia in Syria

The situation in Syria became increasingly complex in the past week, because of the accidental downing of a Russian Ilyushin transport plane by a Syrian missile,   The missile was intended for an Israeli fighter plane that was at that point attacking a Syrian-Iranian weapons cache near Latakia, where there is a major Russian naval base.  Fifteen Russian personnel were killed in the incident, which the Russians of course blamed on Israel.   They could hardly blame it on their own allies, even though Israel gave them clear evidence that the Syrian missile was at fault.  Pres. Putin claimed that the Israeli jet was somehow hiding behind the Russian plane, but that is essentially impossible, since the Ilyushin was much slower moving than the jet fighter and it was probably this that led to the Syrian mistake.

Nevertheless, Putin used this incident to increase Russian penetration into Syria.  Although Russia has for years held off providing Syria with a modern Russian missile defense system, he used the Ilyushin downing as an excuse to supply Syria with an S-300 surface to air missile system.  This will make Israel’s job of over-flying Syria more difficult in order to prevent the delivery of advanced Iranian weapons systems into Syria and the entrenchment of Iranian forces within Syria with the intention of establishing a direct front in its intended war against Israel.

What is perhaps most troubling is that there has been a good relationship between Pres. Putin and PM Netanyahu and some communication/warning system between their respective air forces.  But, it didn’t work in this case, perhaps because Israel suspects that the Russians would warn their Syrian allies of any attack.  So that leaves the potential of a clash between the IAF and the Russian air force as an even greater possibility.  Also the US has its planes active over Syria, particularly in the eastern region where it supports the Kurds and allied forces in their war against the Islamic State.  Since that war is almost over, there is a danger that Pres. Trump could decide to pull US forces out of Syria.  That would be a big mistake since it would leave Russia in almost complete control of Syria, from which it could allow the Iranians to play havoc with Middle Eastern peace.

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