Israeli intelligence officials are in Russia in a last-ditch attempt to try to stop Moscow from sending S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syrian President Bashar Assad, the London Guardian reported Thursday.
Assad has told Lebanese media the he already has received the first shipment of the sophisticated missile system that could down Israeli commercial and military airplanes. However, his credibility is near zero, and some sources have noted that Russia has not yet trained any Syrians to operate the S-300. making it even more unlikely that the missile system could be operable in Syria for weeks, if not months.
Israel has said suggested it would destroy the S-300, but military action probably would be used only if Assad were to try to ship them to Hezbollah.
Russia also risks a serious economic and military defeat if Israel succeeds in disabling the missiles electronically in the event that they arrive in Syria.
A source close to Russia’s defense ministry told Reuters that the Israelis “likely have a million ways to combat the S-300 electronically,” but he questioned their feasibility because they had not been tested in war.
Former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens told Voice of Israel public radio, “I’d be very surprised if the Russians deliver this system. It would become apparent that our air force is capable of besting this system, and that would not make for good advertising.”
Israel has been placed in the middle of a cold war between the United States and Russia, which desperately is trying to keep Assad in power in order to remain a major power broker in Middle East affairs.