Why Russia might have turned its back on Iran in Syria
Russia on May 11, 2018, reportedly declined to export its advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria despite a high tempo of international and Israeli airstrikes peppering the country over the last few months, in the latest sign that Moscow has turned its back on Iran in the country.
Israel maintains it will strike Iranian targets in Syria as long as they ally with Hezbollah and Hamas, both anti-Israel US-designated terror organizations that operate near Israel's borders.
Despite the near constant stream of powerful countries bombing targets in Syria, and Syria's weak attempts to defend against the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin's aide in charge of foreign military assistance said Syria had "everything it needs."
On May 9, 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Putin in Moscow. That same night, Israeli airstrikes reportedly wiped out the majority of Syrian air defenses in the southern part of the country. Russian-owned and operated air defenses in Syria, which include the S-300, did nothing to stop the attack.
Israel has long wanted Russia to withhold its more powerful defenses from Syria.
Israel is in charge now
Video of an Israeli missile taking out a Russian-made air defense system.
Israel stomped on Russian-made Syrian air defenses on May 9, 2018, in the largest Israeli Air Force attack in Syria since the two countries went to war in 1973. The massive battle saw Syria's older Russian-made air defenses outmatched — and obliterated.
Israel has carried out strikes with the express purpose of beating down Iranian forces in southern Syria. By all accounts, the attacks succeeded in taking out command posts, infrastructure, and munitions. Israel won't tolerate a buildup of Iranian forces along its borders in Syria as Iran explicitly seeks to destroy Israel.
Though Israel has engaged in more than 100 airstrikes in Syria since 2012, mostly against Iranian-linked forces, it has treaded softly and attempted to avoid a larger war.
Without new reinforcements like Russia's S-300, and with the former defenses laying in ruin, Iranian forces in Syria will be greatly exposed to Israeli air power.
Russia may continue to trade with Tehran after the US imposed sanctions following its withdraw from the Iran deal, and continue to be Iran's ally on paper. But Russia, by denying Syria air defenses, looks to have turned its back on supporting the regional ambitions of Ayatollah Khamenei.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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