Israel is convinced that it will be able to attack the Iranian forces in Syria even now that Iran’s partner, Russia, has transferred S-300 anti-air defense systems to Syria.
In an interview with Voice of America’s Persian service in Jerusalem, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Michael Oren said that the Russian S-300 systems “will pose a problem, but one which can be overcome”.
“Israel has been overcoming such problems since the day of its creation in 1948,” Oren observed, “We will overcome this, if we have to.”
Russia sent the S-300 systems to its ally Syria following an incident on September 17, when the Syrian military accidentally shot down a Russian reconnaissance plane while trying to fend off an Israeli air attack. At the time, the Syrian troops were using less advanced S-200 systems.
Israel claims that its aircraft had already completed their attack on Iranian military targets and returned to Israeli airspace when the Syrian anti-air divisions opened fire “haphazardly”, downing the Russian plane as a result.
Moscow blames Israel for creating the “dangerous” situation which led to the incident.
Iranian Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani said that the deployment of S-300s is a blow to the long-standing Israeli campaign of airstrikes against Iranian forces.
However, former chief of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate Amos Yadlin told the Voice of America in a recent interview that Iran cannot count on the new S-300 batteries to protect its forces in Syria.
Russian officials have said that the systems will be operated by Russians while the Syrian forces are being trained to use them. The officials also claim that the primary reason for transferring the S-300s to Syria is to ensure the safety of the Russian aircraft and personnel operating in the region.
“I don’t think the Russians want to challenge the Israeli Air Force, which has excellent potential,” observed Yadlin, who is currently the director of the Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. “Russia’s strategic goal is to stabilize Syria. The worst case scenario which Russia could see is an increase in instability. And so, based on my knowledge of the way the leaders in Moscow think, I can say that they will not allow their soldiers to open fire on Israelis”.
Oren said that the Israeli and Russian militaries are in contact with each other on a daily basis, on the level of the deputy chiefs of general staff, in order to avoid a confrontation between them. “We will do everything we can to prevent this,” Oren remarked, “We are completely disinterested in a military confrontation with Russia”.