On Sunday, the official Iranian news agency IRNA ran a story headlined “Russian S-300 system crashes during the attack on Syria,” quoting Hishmatullah Peshah, head of the National Security Committee in parliament, who said last Thursday: “There is serious criticism directed at Russia, because the S-300 [ground to air missile] system was disrupted when the Zionist entity launches its attacks on Syria.”
“When the Russian S-300 is operating properly, the Zionist entity cannot easily attack Syria,” Peshah said, then pointed his finger at the Russians, saying: “There seems to be some sort of coordination between the Zionist attacks and the Russian air defense based in Syria.”
According to the intelligence website nziv.net on Sunday, over the past week there have been bloody clashes inside the Syrian army between the units loyal to the Russian army and units loyal to Iran. The website quoted a senior military spokesman in the Syrian army who told its reporter on Monday morning that to date more than 160 have been killed in these battles in the Hama area alone.
Currently there are no reports that Russian military units are directly involved in the internal conflict of the Syrian army, according to nziv.net, but the website reports a recent incident when Iran attempted to send reinforcements of Shi’ite militias to aid the forces of Syrian general and commander of the Republican Guard and the army’s elite Fourth Armored Division Maher al-Asad, but the Iranian convoy were met with a threatening fly-over of Russian warplanes which forces it to retreat.
Last Friday, in an interview with CNN, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was asked if Russia was Iran’s ally on the ground in Syria, and answered, “I wouldn’t use this to describe where we are with Iran,” stressing: “We in no way underestimate the importance of measures that would ensure very strong security of the state of Israel,” adding, “The Israelis know this, the US knows this, everyone else, including the Iranians, the Turks, the government in Damascus. This is one of the top priorities of Russia.”
Israel Hayom on Sunday night quoted two experts on Iran and Russia, who said that the unusual attack on Russia by the Iranian news agency is not the first expression of tension between the two countries, and that there have been reports of actual exchanges of fire between Russian and Iranian forces in Syria.
According to Israeli experts cited by Israel Hayom, two factors are at play in the emerging conflicts between Russia and Iran in Syria: the first is Russia’s plans to be the chief benefactor from the future efforts to rebuild Syria after the civil war is over – an idea Iran opposes vehemently, seeing it was the Iranian government and its proxy militias that paid with thousands of fatalities to revive and sustain the Assad regime; the second is that once the US is withdrawing from Syria, Russia sees its role as being responsible for stability and peace in Syria, a concept which is contrary to Iran’s role wherever its forces are based.
All of which means that a clash between the two countries is imminent, and that, just as MP Hishmatullah Peshah said, Russia is only too happy to let Israel do its bidding against the Iranians in Syria.