Russia has delivered supersonic cruise missiles to Syria despite the violence shaking the Arab country and Israel’s furious condemnation of the deal, a news report said on Thursday.
“The Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles have been delivered to Syria,” a military source told the Interfax news agency without disclosing when the shipment was made.
Russia signed a contract reportedly worth at least $300 million (222 million euros) in 2007 to supply its traditional Arab world ally with a large shipment of the cruise missiles. Reports said Russia intended to deliver 72 of the missiles to Syria in all.
The deal immediately angered Israel, which fears the weapons may fall into the hands of Hezbollah militants in neighbouring Lebanon…
Another Russian official told Interfax that the missiles, which operate as part of the Bastion mobile coastal defence system, “will be able to protect Syria’s entire coast against a possible attack from the sea.”
Let’s see: Either they will “fall into the hands” of Hizballah, or if Assad survives he can use them against Israel himself. Or perhaps an Islamist successor to Assad will do so.
Although these weapons were ordered before the start of what has become a civil war in Syria, one would think that the present situation would be a good reason to delay the delivery — unless Assad and his Iranian patron (who certainly paid for the missiles) are thinking to deter Western or Turkish intervention.
Another possibility is that they are intended as a deterrent against an Israeli attack on Syrian missile bases which might precede one on Iran.
Russia has stationed naval units at Latakia and Tartus, Syria, providing very important direct access to the eastern Mediterranean (nearby Russian ports are in the Black Sea, requiring passage through the Turkish-controlled Dardanelles and Bosphorous straits). This area has taken on great strategic significance with the discovery of large reservoirs of natural gas. So doubtless the missile system is wanted to defend the Russian base as well.
The gas discovery is almost a mixed blessing. Now in addition to the ideological hatred of the Muslim world, Israel finds that it also has to protect its natural resources against the piracy of great powers like Russia and Turkey (which is motivated by both greed and Islamist ideology).