Hassan Rouhani & Vladimir Putin & Recep Erdogan

Israel factor complicates but won’t break Iran-Russia partnership in Syria

Al-Monitor | : With the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey slated to attend a new round of Syria peace talks within the Astana framework on Feb. 14, the relationship between Tehran and Moscow — two main allies of the Syrian government in its eight years of fighting against rebel and terrorist groups — is facing a new durability test, mostly due to the Israeli factor.

On Jan. 21, Israeli warplanes carried out a series of strikes against alleged Iranian targets in Syria. The attacks were considered the most serious since the downing of an IL-20 Russian military aircraft by a Syrian air defense missile on Sept. 17. Russian officials interpreted the incident as the consequence of a deliberate attempt by the Israeli pilots to mislead the Syrian air defense by hiding behind the Russian surveillance plane. As a result, Moscow announced that it would provide Damascus with advanced S-300 missile defense systems and upgrade Syria’s air defense capabilities. However, the advanced Russian systems, seen by some observers as a potential game changer in Syria, were inactive during the latest round of Israeli airstrikes.

Head of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh criticized Moscow, saying, “If the S-300 systems in Syria operated correctly, the Israeli military would be unable to easily conduct airstrikes on Syria.” He went on to speculate that there seems to be coordination between the attacks and Russian-provided air defenses deployed in Syria.

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