Russia deployed some of its best air defenses to Syria to keep US missiles and jets at bay as the US military’s immense air and naval power fought ISIS in close proximity — but the supposedly airtight defenses are routinely defeated by Israel.
In September, Israeli raid on Iranian weapons stockpiles in Syria saw a Russian Il-20 surveillance and control plane downed by Russian-made air defenses fired off in error by Syrian air defense units, killing 15.
Russia accused Israel of purposefully flying under the Il-20 to confuse the Syrian air defenses into shooting down a friendly plane and quickly shipped the more advanced S-300 missile defenses to Syrian hands.
Russia thinks highly of its S-300 and other missile defenses, and has publicly mocked the US over its stealth jets, implying it could shoot them down. At the time, Russia said it would shut down satellite navigation in the region and that it expected its new defenses would preclude further Israeli attacks. So far, they were wrong.
Somehow Israel has continued to hit targets in Syria at will with F-16s, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter-bombers.
There has been considerable speculation in recent months concerning reasons why the S-300 air defense systems supplied to the Syrian Arab Army by the Russian Federation have yet to fire a shot in anger at Israeli aircraft encroaching on its airspace and launching ordnance against a variety of targets on Syria’s territory. The above video attempts to explore a reasonably complete range of explanations. On the one hand, the S-300 batteries in Syria operate under a handicap of operational and political restrictions. However, it would be a mistake to believe that just because missiles are not being launched, that the weapons in question are ineffective.
- Israel’s Human Shields
- The Lebanese Doormat
- Russian “Equidistance”
- The Iran Factor
While the situation remains relatively stable with few escalation risks, it cannot be said it is a satisfactory state of affairs because considerable ambiguities remain and will remain for the foreseeable future. Iranian forces in Syria will remain indispensable to that country’s security for as long as US forces remain in Syria and the status of Syria’s northern provinces controlled by insurgent groups supported by Turkey remains unresolved. Until these issues are addressed, the S-300 batteries in Syria will continue to play their part in maintaining this uneasy equilibrium.
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