Frustrated Israelis Says Russian Navy Protecting Iranian Tankers to Syria
Amid confused reports of a drone attack on an Iranian ship in the Mediterranean on its way to Syria, Iran appears to have moved its weapons shipments to Syria and Lebanon from the land — where Israel has regularly tracked and destroyed them — to ships that may be receiving protection from Russian vessels in the Mediterranean.
At the same time, defense sources here say Israel has intensified its aerial attacks on targets in Syria once the weapons are delivered by sea. The last such attack was on April 22.
Israeli defense sources here say the Iranian ships sail from the Red Sea, transit the Suez Canal and arrive in the Mediterranean. The defense sources say the ships documents claim they carry only oil, but there are indications that “oil is not the only cargo.” [Israel would of course say that.]
Israel finds itself in a situation where little can be done to stop this new route from Iran to Syria.
“Moscow achieves here two targets: telling Washington that the U.S is very limited in its actions in the Middle East; and supporting Iran in the negotiations with the U.S about a new nuclear deal,” Uzi Rabi, an expert on Iran, told BD. The latest Russian frigates, corvettes and submarines armed with Kalibr missiles can target the Mediterranean area and the Middle East, defense sources here say.
Rabi added that Israel is almost paralyzed when the Iranian ships sail in the Mediterranean on their way to Syria after crossing the Suez canal because, “the rules of the game at sea are different. What was achievable when Israel operated against the ground and air shipments of weapons from Iran to Syria is not valid when the action is at sea, under a Russian umbrella.”
The shift is occurring, Israeli sources told BD, because of the success of the massive Israeli campaign against the shipments of weapon systems from Iran to the Hezbollah in Lebanon. [Nice pro-Netanyahu self-congratulations. Or maybe there is no “shift” and the oil ships are carrying oil.] Israel performed hundreds of attacks on convoys on their way to Lebanon, as well on locations where the Iranian made systems are stored before being transferred to Lebanon.
The Russian news agency Sputnik reported on April 17 from “special sources” that a triple, Russian-Iranian-Syrian battalion would be established in the Mediterranean to ensure the safe arrival in Syria of oil and flour shipments and other goods to Syrian ports.
Israeli defense sources say that this fleet can protect merchant ships “over and under water.”
According to these sources, discussions have already taken place between Russia, Iran and Syria to break the stifling US-European siege imposed on Syria.
The first goal of this arrangement is to ensure the arrival of oil in Syrian ports, since Syria is suffering serious oil shortages due to the US military’s takeover of oil wells east of Deir a-Zor, and oil smuggling from Syria to Iraq.
Israeli sources added that it seems that the Russian plan is to escort ships sailing from Iran to Syria who have been “painted red” by Israeli intelligence to discourage any Israeli action against them. This was done after a cargo ship, the Saviz, that was converted by Iran to serve as an intelligence ship was reportedly attacked by Israel in the Red Sea.
Reports of the apparent attack on the Iranian ship are confused. Syrian state media, citing the country’s oil ministry, claimed that an “attack by a drone” caused a large fire on the oil tanker in the eastern Mediterranean, near the port of Baniyas. Some reports claimed three people were killed.
These new Russian protections, Israeli defense sources say, enabled Iran to deliver a large weapons shipment to Syria recently. The Israeli air force struck against the stored weapons on April 22. The Syrians launched Russian-made SA-5 surface – air missiles at the Israeli aircraft but they missed. One missile continued its trajectory and flew over Israel. Early warning radar detected the missiles and an Arrow 2 missile was launched. The Israeli interceptor missed and the SA-5 destroyed itself in the air near Dimona, site of Israel’s main nuclear reactor is located. No one was hurt.
Israel refuses, officially, to comment on the Russian-Iranian-Syrian talks or arrangements.
Source: Breaking Defense