As reported earlier, in Syria we are witnessing the return of the Cold War to the Middle East. As the events of recent days show, this Cold War is now in full swing.
It began with Assad and Hezbollah vowing to retaliate to Israel’s airstrikes by opening a new front on Israel’s Golan border. Matters escalated this week as this policy was given a start by Assad’s Palestinian allies of the PLFP launching mortar attacks against Israel’s Golan. At first these attacks were reported as stray fire from the Syrian conflict, but the IDF has now confirmed the attacks were claimed by the Palestinian “Martyrs of the Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades”. In response, Israel threatened Assad with regime change should he continue to foment any activity directed at the Golan, or respond to past and possibly future airstrikes by any other means.
But Assad is relying on his Russian patron to stave off Israeli action. Netanyahu had visited Sochi, Russia earlier this week in an effort to push Russia off delivering S-300 SAM batteries to Syria. No luck. Russia confirmed that the batteries have already been provided to Assad. This severely complicates possible Western or Israeli airstrikes against Syria, since these S-300 batteries are manned by Russians, who would consequently be casualties of any effort to destroy the batteries. Moreover, Russia was apparently bothered by the recent visit of the USS Kearsarge to Eilat, the first by a US warship to Israeli in 13 years (it delivered the V-22 Osprey’s the US had agreed to sell Israel earlier this month.) In response, Russia has now provided Syria with the advanced Yakhont anti-ship missile [see video above], which Hezbollah apparently used to destroy an Israeli warship in the 2006 Lebanon war. Just like the S-300, the Yakhont would be a problem for future Western interventions in Syria or Iran, endangering seaborne platforms used in such operations.