21:45 GMT13 May 2021
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    When Syrian air defenses responded to an Israeli air raid last week, one of their missiles shot down a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane on accident. However, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu responded Monday by saying that his country would supply Syria with more advanced S-300 anti-air missile systems.

    Kevork Almassian, the founder of Syrian news site Syriana Analysis, told Radio Sputnik's Fault Lines about what the decision has potential to de-escalate tensions in Syrian war.

    Almassian noted that Israel claimed to be bombing Iranian facilities in Latakia, but instead bombed a Syrian research center. When the Israeli jets made their attack, they entered Syrian airspace illegally and maneuvered such as to use the Il-20, on a spy mission over the hotly contested province of Idlib, as a shield from the "old" S-200 missile systems sold to Syria by Russia previously.

    [Interview begins at 75:50]

    ​Almassian told hosts Lee Stranahan and Garland Nixon that Russia had previously halted the delivery of S-300 systems to Syria in 2013 following Israeli protests. However, he noted that at that time, the Syrian war was a lot more "chaotic" and saw rebel groups invading Syrian army sites and destroying or seizing air defense systems. "Imagine that our S-300 systems would be in the hands of terrorists," he said. That's why he said it was "impossible" to make the delivery until Syria reached "a relative calm," such as the one that has come about in 2018 as a result of Syrian army victories.

    He said the S-300 delivery "will have a big impact" on Israel because it will no longer be able to bomb Syria from close-by sites like Lebanon or just off the coast, where Israeli jets could be safe from limited-range Syrian anti-air fire. "If these systems were installed in Latakia," he said, "they have to bomb from Cyprus, or from 200 kilometers away from Syria, and this will make things difficult for the Israelis."

    "That's why I believe they will start using sophisticated fighter jets, such as the F-35," which he noted has "more capabilities" than the aging F-16s previously used by the IDF.

    Noting that US National Security Adviser John Bolton had described Russia supplying S-300s to Syria as "an escalation," Almassian told Sputnik, "It's not an escalation; it's a de-escalation." He said the S-300s, by integrating with the even more advanced Russian S-400 systems in use by Russian forces deployed in the country — something the S-200s couldn't do — the Syrians will not only be able to block Israeli air attacks, but those by the US, France, UK or other actors as well.

    But what if one of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, about which US President Donald Trump has boasted much with regards to their stealth capabilities, was downed by this new air defense network? "That means a lot of customers will start questioning the validity and the importance of buying — the value of buying such a weapon," he said.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    Fault Lines, S-300, de-escalation, anti-aircraft missiles, F-35, conflict, Syria
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