According to reports in both Israeli and Arabic regional media, Israel this past week was preparing to expand major airstrikes against “Iran-backed” targets in Syria, but Moscow imposed its red line. The Independent has published a story describing that Russia’s military in Syria threatened to shoot down any invading Israeli warplanes using fighter jets or their S-400 system.
According to the report, Moscow has prevented three Israeli airstrikes on three Syrian outposts recently, and even threatened that any jets attempting such a thing would be shot down, either by Russian jets or by the S400 Anti-aircraft missiles. The source cited in the report claims a similar situation has happened twice, and that during August, Moscow stopped an airstrike on a Syrian outpost in Qasioun, where a S300 missile battery is placed.
Netanyahu’s hasty trip to meet with Putin on Thursday – even in the final days before Tuesday’s key election – was reportedly with a goal to press the Russian president on essentially ignoring Israel’s attacks in Syria.
According to the Russian source, Putin let Netanyahu know that his country will not allow any damage to be done to the Syrian regime’s army, or any of the weapons being given to it…
Israel sources cited by the Arabic newspaper described Netanyahu’s attempts to persuade Putin as “a failure”. This in spite of Netanyahu telling reporters after the meeting that his relations with Moscow were stronger than ever.
Moscow is said to be particularly resistant given the Israeli military’s recent spate of attacks on targets in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria.
“”النفسية الحربية” التي عاد بها #نتنياهو من روسيا حملت دلالات ضغوط وعدم ارتياح سرعان ما كُشف عن جوانب منها… وفي مركزها أنه لم يعد تلك الشخصية المهمة بالنسبة إلى #بوتين ولا حتى بالنسبة #ترمب“#اندبندنت_عربية_تغنيكhttps://t.co/zR2Q6YDXv6
— Independent عربية (@IndyArabia) September 14, 2019
Sources in the report claimed further that Putin in a somewhat unprecedented moment raised the issue of Lebanon:
The Russian source said: “Putin has expressed his dissatisfaction from Israel’s latest actions in Lebanon” and even emphasized to Netanyahu that he “Rejects the aggression towards Lebanon’s sovereignty” something which has never been heard from him. Putin further stated that someone is cheating him in regards to Syria and Lebanon and that he will not let it go without a response. According to him, Netanyahu was warned not to strike such targets in the future.
It could also be simply that Putin understands that Netanyahu, now desperate to extend his political career to a record fifth term as prime minister as next week’s elections loom, could be ready to risk a major and very unnecessary Middle East conflagration in order to continue to appeal to Israeli right wing and nationalist voters.