Sunday, May 19, 2013

Middle-East Showdown: Tensions Continue To Escalate

Russia Knows Exactly What The Fuss Is About

In interviews in the last few days, the Russian foreign minister has asserted Moscow’s obligation — never mind its right — to honor a contract to supply President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria with advanced S-300 air defense batteries, state-of-the-art systems that can intercept fighter jets and cruise missiles.

The four-part reasoning Lavrov advances: (1) Russia’s arms sales credibility would be shattered were it to renege on the deal; (2) Russia has never made any secret of its various contracts with Assad; (3) these are defensive missile systems, not offensive weapons; and (4) the sales are not in breach of international law or Russia’s own ostensibly stringent arms sales regulations.

Lavrov, to put it politely, is being disingenuous. 

His narrow legalistic reasoning collapses in the face of a grisly reality in which his client, Bashar Assad, has spent the past two years clinging to power by massacring his own people (and the often extremely unsavory “rebel” forces who have joined the fight to oust the Assad regime). Russia’s weapons sales to Assad are enabling that ongoing bloodshed. And supplementing the regime’s arsenal with one of the world’s most sophisticated air defense systems will make the butcher of Damascus, who has remarkably managed to out-murder even his ruthless father, more impregnable.

S-300s are just one piece in the complex face-off over Syria now playing out between Moscow and Washington. By insistently maintaining their military support for Assad, said Yadlin, the Russians are saying to the Americans, “We lost Egypt; you took Iraq; and you took Libya. You’re not going to touch Syria.”

What we have playing out over Syria, therefore, is a mini-confrontation between the world’s only superpower, and its would-be reviving former superpower enemy. Israel’s misfortune is to be caught up in the middle.

The problem is that the route by which Iran supplies weaponry to Hezbollah, its proxy anti-Israel militia, happens to run via Syria. And with Assad’s complicity, Iran has turned Hezbollah into the world’s best-armed terrorist organization with missiles that can hit, and cause immense damage, to just about any target anywhere in Israel.

With Assad’s Syria protected beneath the S-300 umbrella, Iran would be emboldened in its weapons transfers to Hezbollah, a semi-sovereign terror group avowedly committed to Israel’s destruction. Israel would feel obliged to find other means to prevent the improvement of Hezbollah’s already formidable military capability. And tensions across the already unstable borders between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon, would be ratcheted up another few deeply worrying notches.

That’s why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, when they met for emergency talks about Syria last week, that the delivery of S-300 batteries to Assad “is likely to draw us into a response, and could send the region deteriorating into war.” Worryingly, Putin reportedly responded by warning Netanyahu that any further Israeli airstrikes in Syria could have the same result.

All of which, as Sergey Lavrov knows full well, is what the fuss is about.

If so, and we fully expect that Netanyahu is not bluffing - the question becomes "What will Russia do in response?"

Amid escalating rhetoric between Jerusalem and Damascus in the wake of reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Sunday to continue to act to prevent advanced weaponry from being transferred to Lebanese terror group Hezbollah via Syria.

“The Israeli government has acted responsibly and prudently to ensure the security of Israeli citizens and to prevent advanced weapons from reaching Hezbollah and [other] terrorist organizations… and we will do so in the future,” Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

“The Middle East is in one of its most sensitive periods in decades, primarily Syria,” the prime minister added. “We are monitoring the changes there closely and are prepared for any scenario.”

On Sunday, the Times of London reported that Syria had trained long-range missiles on Tel Aviv, to be used if Israel violates Syrian territory. Israeli jets reportedly struck sites near Damascus twice earlier in May, aiming to stop the transfer of advanced Fateh-110 missiles to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Damascus has put a number of advanced weapons on standby to strike Israel, should Jerusalem hit targets inside Syria again, the UK’s Sunday Times reported.
According to the report, satellite images show Syria has readied its stock of Tishreen missiles for use against Tel Aviv.

Earlier this month, the al-Watan newspaper reported that the Syrian regime had established a bank of Israeli sites to be attacked in retaliation for another airstrike.
The Tishreen, also known as the M-600, is the Syrian version of Iran’s Fateh-110 missile. Damascus is thought to possess a large stockpile of the missiles, which can travel over 200 kilometers and carry up to a half-ton payload, according to the Sunday Times report.
On Friday, ex-military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said the embattled Assad was under increasing pressure to respond to Israeli strikes.

Before attempting any more of the airstrikes that “have worked well for us three or four times,” Yadlin said, Israel needed to ask itself whether it could “deal with the escalation that could develop.
Earlier in the week, Russia said it would go ahead with the sale of S-300 anti-missile systems to Syria, despite Israeli protests.
Moscow also sent a number of warships to the Mediterranean in what was seen, in part, as a warning to Israel not to hit Syria again.

Netanyahu responds to 'Sunday Times' report that Syria has missiles aimed at Tel Aviv following alleged IAF strikes in Damascus, saying Israel working to ensure advanced weapons won't reach terror organizations.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded at the opening of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting to reports in the British newspaper Sunday Times saying Syria has missiles aimed at Tel Aviv, assuring that "the Israeli government acts in a responsible, determined and measured manner to ensure the State of Israel's main interest, which is the security of its citizens."
According to the Sunday Times, reconnaissance satellites have revealed preparations made by the Syrian army to deploy surface-to-surface Tishreen missiles. Syrian President Bashar Assad, the report said, is ready to use these missiles should Israel decide to conduct a strike on Damascus.

The paper quotes Israeli missile export Uzi Rubin as saying Syria has a lot of Tishreen missiles at its disposal, and that should they fire them at Israel, they could potentially paralyze all commercial flights coming in and out of the country.

"Our polices are to stop, as much as possible, any leaks of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. We will continue to act to ensure the security interests of the citizens of Israels," Netanyahu stressed.
The report comes amidst a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the Middle East and Syria in particular after Israel allegedly carried out two airstrikes on several targets in Syria earlier this month.

The powder-keg, also known as the Middle East is sitting just on the brink of igniting. We know from biblical prophecy that it will blow - it's just a matter of time. 


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