It is becoming abundantly clear that Russian president Putin does not wish to test his state-of-the-art air defense systems against Israeli-operated F-35 fighters, giving Israel a near carte blanche to deter Iranian ambitions in Syria
Various sources are reporting that Iran has recently deployed in the T-4 airbase outside of Damascus its most advanced air defense system, the Bavar-373. The system is an Iranian-made derivative of the Russian S-300 surface to air missile system and is reported to have the capability to simultaneously engage up to six distinct long-range targets.
This deployment comes on the heels of the inability of existing air defense in Syria to deter repeated Israeli attacks on Iranian installations in that country, specifically those that employ the newly acquired, by Israel, F-35 fighter bombers. It seems that Iranian high command is ascribing this failure to the low quality of the Syrian personnel operating the advanced Russian weapons systems at their disposal rather than the systems themselves, hence the Iranian decision to introduce to the theater Iranian-manufactured and operated air defense systems.
So far and including just last night, Israel has chosen to refrain from attacking and destroying the newly deployed Bavar-373 battery, perhaps because the T-4 airbase has many Russian installations or because attacking installations that are outside the base, but are covered by the new battery allows Israel to study the system and its vulnerabilities vis-s-vis the F-35 fighter-bombers without attacking it directly.
An attack by Israel on a remote site took place last night when the Iranian installation at Abu-Kamal in eastern Syria close to the Iraq border was destroyed by Israeli aircraft with as many as five Iranian personnel losing their lives in the raid.
It is likely that a big portion of PM Netanyahu’s face to face talks with US Secretary of State Pompeo and his phone call last night with Russian president Putin addressed the issue of continued Iranian encroachment in Syria and Israel’s response to it. When it comes to Messrs. Pompeo and Putin, they may have quite opposite opinions for what may be desirable when it comes to Israeli activities in Syria. Pompeo would very much like it if the F-35 were decisively proven to be far superior to Russian state of the art defenses, while Putin would likely prefer not to put that proposition to the test.
Luckily for Israel, the outcome of both of these preferences is the curtailment of Iranian ambitions to open a direct front against Israel in Syria, ambitions that Israel swore to thwart at all costs. The US would rather not further inflame the volatile region in an election year, while Putin would rather not be seen as impotent in the face of American and Israeli manufactured and Israeli-operated weapons systems.
With that in mind, it appears that Israel will continue to enjoy a fair amount of operational freedom against Iran in the Syrian theater of operations.
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Putin does everything on the cheap. He has only one real goal, to stay alive.