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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Report: Russia canceled S-300 sale to Syria to get Israel to leave Syria alone

A report in Sunday's Times of London (which I cannot access online) claims that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin made a deal last week: Israel would leave Syria alone, and in return Russia would not sell Syria the S-300 anti-missile defense system.

Given that the report was in the Sunday Times of London, I'd say its source was likely part of the Fantasyland of Uzi Mahnaimi. And the Israeli government has already dismissed the report.

This is from the first link.
According to Sunday’s report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin of the risk such a deal posed to regional stability and Israeli civilians, during a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi earlier this month, leading to the cancelation of the planned sale of six S-300 batteries to Bashar Assad’s regime.

In their meeting, Netanyahu reportedly warned Putin that Moscow’s sale of the sophisticated missile defense system to Assad could push the Middle East into war, and argued that the S-300 had no relevance to Assad’s civil-war battles against rebel groups.
Netanyahu and his national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, explained to Putin that planes landing or taking off from Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv would be within the 200-kilometer (125-mile) range of the S-300 system, the report said.
“We are very much concerned about this; the large Russian community in Israel is a major factor in our attitude to Israel, and we will not let this happen,” the Russian official told The Sunday Times.
In return, the official said, the Russians expected Israel to refrain from carrying out additional air strikes in Syria, like the two the IAF reportedly conducted earlier in May, destroying shipments of advanced Fateh-110 missiles en route via Damascus to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who was present at the Netanyahu-Putin meeting as a translator, on Sunday stopped short of confirming the report and refused to provide further details of the meeting. He said however, that in the wake of the conversation between the two leaders, he had consistently maintained that “it would be wrong to classify the meeting as a failure.”
The Ukrainian-born Elkin told Army Radio that Israel’s sizable population of immigrants from former Soviet Union states was “clearly” a factor in Russian policy in the region. He noted, however, that Russian expats in Israel have “not prevented the Russian leadership from taking stands against Israel’s security… [and] supporting Israel’s enemies in the Middle East.”
And this is from the third link.
Israeli government officials dismissed the report. "This story is detached from reality. A fairytale. There was no agreement or understanding achieved between Putin and Netanyahu. That's another piece of fantasizing," one of the officials told Ynet.

"It's likely there would be a great deal of foot-dragging by the Russians, who would use it as a bargaining chip without following through with the deal. Only time will tell," he said.
I don't believe there's any chance that Netanyahu agreed to stand down in the event that Syria is transferring weapons to Hezbullah. But it is possible - maybe even likely - that Syria will never get the S-300.

“It will take months to manufacture the missiles and to assemble them into an integrated operating system,” Ruslan Aliev, a Russian weapons researcher, told the newspaper.

In addition, Syrian troops would have to fly to Russia to train on the missiles because it would be impractical to send experts into the Syrian conflict zone, he said.

According to the report, there are also doubts whether Syria, battered by more than two years of conflict, still has the means to pay.  

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