Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Israel: Syria has not yet received S-300s but when they arrive, watch out

Israel has determined that the S-300PMU2 air defense system was not yet delivered to Syria.

Officials said the Israeli intelligence community has assessed that the regime of President Bashar Assad did not acquire any S-300 batteries from Russia. They said, however, that the Kremlin issued commitments to honor a 2010 contract for the delivery of up to four systems to Assad’s military.

“The deliveries have not taken place, I can attest to this, and I hope they do not,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said. “But if, by some misfortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do.”

In a briefing on May 28, Ya’alon disclosed details of the Israeli-Russian summit in mid-May 2013. The defense minister said concern over an S-300 delivery to Assad marked a major topic during the visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow.

Ya’alon said Russia still intended to deliver the S-300 to Damascus. He said the system, designed for an interception range of up to 200 kilometers, would threaten Israel.

“Regarding the S-300, the matter obviously came up because of Russia’s intention to provide Syria with this missile system,” Ya’alon said. “Clearly this move is a threat to us, even though at this point I cannot say that
there is a step-up in the shipment of the S-300.”

Officials dismissed reports in the Western media that the Kremlin has canceled the S-300 deal with Syria, estimated at $1 billion. On May 21, Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said Russia was overseeing the modernization of Assad’s military with advanced air defense systems.

“From the small budget that Assad has, he has spent billions in the past few years to buy the best systems that the Russians can produce — the SA-22, SA-17, SA-24, the S-300 which is on it’s way,” Eshel said.

On May 28, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow would deliver an advanced variant of the S-300. The statement, coming a week after Russia’s foreign minister denied such plans, said the S-300 would deter enemies of the Assad regime.

“We think this delivery is a stabilizing factor, and that such steps in many ways restrain some hotheads from exploring scenarios in which this conflict could be given an international character with participation of
outside forces,” Ryabkov said.

Officials said the S-300 or components could be located in southern Syria or Lebanon in cooperation with the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah. They said this would enable Iran, Hizbullah and Syria to monitor all civilian and most military aircraft in the Jewish state.

“They [Russia] are encouraging support to a brutal regime,” Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said.

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