Was Russia Just Waiting for an Excuse to Arm Syria?

Iraqi activist Hajjar Youssif hands out masks to protesters for a demonstration last week in Basra

The system will "significantly increase the Syrian army's combat capabilities", he said.

Russia's announcement on the missile system came a week after Moscow blamed Israel for indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military plane in Syria.

But what exactly does the transfer of the S-300 missile system to the Assad regime mean for Israel and the region amidst deteriorating relations between Russian Federation and Israel?

The French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian issued the warning at the start of a week of summit meetings at the United Nations general assembly, where the U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, also raised the prospect of an endless, grueling conflict, vowing not to pulling USA forces out of Syria before Iranian troops and their allies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday told his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad that Russia will provide Syria with S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system, state news agency SANA reported.

While Putin has expressed interest to Netanyahu in investing in Mediterranean gas fields through Israel during the Sochi talks held on May 14 - according to a Reuters report that interviewed Israeli cabinet Minister Silvan Shalom - it is unlikely to reduce Putin's support for Assad.

The Trump administration urged Russian Federation to reconsider the move, warning that that supplying Syria with an advanced missile defense system would be a "major mistake" and "significant escalation". Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to discuss the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during this week's U.N. General Assembly in NY.

Monday's incident highlighted the dangers posed by the conflicting interests of various powers in the crowded skies over war-torn Syria and threatened to damage relations between Russian Federation and Israel.

The S-300 would represent a major upgrade over the older Russian-made systems the Syrians now use, and would put US, coalition, and Israeli jets under much greater danger of being shot down if the system was used against them in missions over Syria.

Israeli planes have carried out a number of deadly air strikes on Iranian military targets in Syria this year, largely undeterred by the Russian military presence there, apparently owing to close consultations between the Israeli and Russian militaries that Netanyahu's office said were reaffirmed during the phone call.

The plane was shot down by a Syrian missile, but Russia faulted Israel for the crash because an Israeli fighter jet allegedly had used the Russian plane as a screen against Syria's air defenses.

Russian Federation launched its campaign in Syria to support President Al Assad in 2015, and though the involvement turned the tide of war in favour of Syrian government forces, Moscow has since tried to play a careful balancing act, maintaining good ties both with Iran and Israel.

Still, Israel worries that the advanced missile system could make it more hard for them to target Iranian positions inside Syria. The S-300 is a development of the S-75 missile that famously shot down the U-2 spy plane over Russian Federation in 1960, during the Cold War.

For several years, Israel and Russian Federation have maintained a special hotline to prevent their air forces from clashing in the skies over Syria.

There were rumours in late April, just weeks after the US, Britain, and France launched strikes on Syria from both air and sea, about the possible provision of Russian S-300 anti-missile batteries to the Syrian regime.

Unlike Syria's older weapons, the S-200, the newer missiles have an electronic system to avoid hitting friendly airplanes.

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