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Russian President Putin and Syrian President Assad

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will soon fly to Moscow for an urgent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the possible supply of sophisticated Russian SA-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. Israel is deeply concerned about the lethal missiles that could not only shoot down Israeli aircraft flying over Syria and Lebanon but also many planes taking off from inside Israel. Netanyahu spoke with Putin recently by telephone and the Russian leader invited him to come to Moscow within the next two weeks. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has issued an ambiguous statement about Moscow not concluding any new weapons deals but 'is now completing supplies under the previous contracts that are air defense systems'.

 Are the U.S. and Russia now waging a new 'cold war' in Syria? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are trying to build a diplomatic track for resolving the bloody Syrian civil war against the backdrop of their global interests. Israel has tried to stay out of Syria's civil war, but recent developments are drawing in the Jewish state. The Israeli government now faces some hard choices after launching three major air strikes into Syria aimed at barring Syrian President Bashar Assad from shipping 'game changing' missiles and possibly chemical weapons to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. This has apparently annoyed Putin who may have signaled Israel to halt its air strikes in Syria that are seriously embarrassing President Bashar Assad. According to the Wall Street Journal, Israeli officials have told the Obama administration that Moscow is reconsidering its position of not supplying Syria with its top-of-the line S-300 anti-aircraft missiles already contracted with Damascus. This weapon would not only intercept Israeli jets over Syria and Lebanon but could also shoot down aircraft taking off inside Israel! The Russian message to Israel is 'back off on those air strikes on Syria'. This puts Israel in a dangerous bind after Assad has already tried shipping other lethal weapons such as SA- 17 anti-aircraft missiles and more powerful and accurate surface-to-surface missiles, such as the Fetah-100, which Hezbollah could fire at Tel Aviv.

 Russia's regional interest... 

 Why is Russia so determined to preserve the regime of the ruthless Bashar Assad, who has used chemical weapons against his own people? It has to do with the Russian naval bases in Tartus, a major Syrian port on the Mediterranean coast. It provides Russia with a toe-hold in the Mediterranean where Russia has steadily lost ground in its global rivalry with America. By brokering the Israeli-Egyptian peace process after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the U.S., in the words of Henry Kissinger, 'expelled the Soviets from the region'. Assad's Syria is Moscow's last bastion, and one it is determined to preserve. 

 Israel's dilemma...

 Syria has stockpiled one of the largest arsenals of chemical weapons in the world and Israel cannot risk having them fall into hands of Hezbollah. This also applies to Syria's conventional missiles. But now the Russians have warned Israel they will up the ante if Israel continues its new policy of pre-empting inside Syria. On the other hand, will Assad keep his word about sending Hezbollah 'everything they need'? If he does and Israel bombs again inside Syria, will Moscow then retaliate by sending the SA-300 to the Syrians? This recalls the 'Cold War' confrontation between the former U.S.S.R., which armed the Arab states to the teeth, and the U.S. which supported Israel. In the current situation, President Barack Obama has stood solidly behind Israel's pre-emptive strikes against the forces of Moscow's man, Bashar Assad.  

 Israel relied on precise intelligence to be able to detect the exact position inside Syria where the weapons were being stored. What if Israel waited to pre-empt until the weapons left Syrian territory and crossed the border into Lebanon? This could spark a new war with Hezbollah, something Israel does not relish. And what must be going through Assad's mind? Will he deliberately risk shipping more 'game changers' to Hezbollah, inviting an Israeli attack and the subsequent supply of the coveted S-300 anti-aircraft missiles? Another factor could be the possibility of the U.S. and the West imposing a 'no-fly zone' in Syria to prevent Assad's aircraft from continuing to bomb the rebel forces and civilians. The Russians could also be warning Washington to back off this idea as well, or else Russia will deliver the SA-300 to Assad. While on his trip to China, Prime Minister Netanyahu telephoned the White House to discuss the situation with President Obama. 

 Israel... Erdogan's punching bag

 Not only the U.S. justified Israel's pre-emptive strikes against Syria's arms shipments to Hezbollah; Britain, Germany, and other countries also supported Israel's right to defend itself against the terrorist organization However whatever the occasion, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan never misses an opportunity to slander the Jewish state, although he reviles the Assad regime. Speaking to the Turkish parliament, Erdogan declared, ' There is absolutely no justification for these (Israeli) strikes. They provide an opportunity for Assad to cover up the genocide his forces are perpetrating in Banias!' This at a time that Israeli and Turkish officials have started negotiating a resolution of the dispute over the Mavi Marmara affair that torpedoed Israeli- Turkish relations altogether. The Turkish vessel, with Erdogan's backing, tried to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, aimed at preventing Hamas from smuggling more missiles and weapons into Gaza. When the vessel refused to comply with Israeli orders to change course, Israeli naval commandoes boarded the ship but were attacked by Turkish activists. Nine Turks were killed and ten soldiers were stabbed and clubbed with several thrown overboard. Although Israel acted legally and the Turkish vessel violated international law, Netanyahu apologized for 'any error that could have led to loss of life' and agreed to pay compensation to the families of those killed. This was to ease the strain in relations between the two former allies. However, Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan continues to castigate Israel apparently in order to boost his standing with the militant Islamist world. The Turkish leader would do well to take a page out of Israel's book on reconciliation and recognize the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. An estimated one million to 1,500,000 Armenian men, women, and children were massacred by the former Ottoman Empire during the First World War and after. Isracast proposes that Prime Minister Erdogan apologize for the Armenian genocide and also pay the Armenian families the same compensation that Israel will pay the Turkish families.

 According to Wikipedia this is what Prime Minister Erdogan can atone for: 

 "The Ottoman military uprooted Armenians from their homes and forced them to march for hundreds of miles, depriving them of food and water, to the desert of what is now Syria. Massacres were indiscriminate of age and gender, with rape and other sexual abuse commonplace. The majority of Armenian diaspora communities were founded as a result of the Armenian genocide".        

David Essing

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