Photo: AP
Syrian woman kisses picture of Putin
Photo: AP

Israel wary as Russia, Iran expand Syrian presence

Russia rapidly expanding base in Syria; Israeli, Russian chiefs of staff agree to create coordinating committee after Netanyahu, Putin discuss need to avoid military "misunderstandings".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met  Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in order to set up a system to prevent any clashes between the Russian and Israeli armies in the region, as Moscow continues to send troops to its growing base on Latakiya, and as American sources report that Russia has placed 28 fighter jets and a bomber at another base.



Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot later met his Russian counterpart and the two agreed to create a committee to plan coordination.


Satellite view of Russian fighters in Syria
Satellite view of Russian fighters in Syria

According to an American source, the number of Russian fighter planes in Syria has gone up this last weekend from four to 28.


It was also reported on Monday that Russian drones had begun being used in Syria.


The growing Russian air presence and use of drones led to the need to quickly reach agreements aimed at avoiding confrontations in the sky, added American sources.


The Wall Street Journal also reported that Russia and Iran have increased their coordination in Syria in hopes of protecting Bashar Assad's hold on Syria's coastal region. According to sources in the US and the Middle East, Iranian and Russian diplomats and generals have held a number of meetings in Moscow in recent months. One of these alleged secret meetings involved Quds Force commander Qasem Soleiman, who reportedly met Putin this month.


Putin and Netanyahu on Monday (Photo: AP)
Putin and Netanyahu on Monday (Photo: AP)


An American defense source said the Pentagon believes Soleimani's purported visit was "very important". The Kremlin denied the visit, and Washington claimed it occurred and was a breach of a UN travel ban.


Besides Russians, posts in Latakiya also house Iranian advisers and soldiers, as well as Hezbollah fighters. Putin, said European and American sources, is exploiting the Syrian conflict to increase his country's influence in the Middle East. Tehran, meanwhile, wants to maintain Syrian control over areas close to the Lebanese border in order to secure arms supplies to Hezbollah.


Syrian rebels have recently made important territorial advances, and Russia and Iran have increased their involvement accordingly.


One option for the Russo-Iranian-Syrian alliance is action around Palmyra, which was conquered by ISIS. Putin described the Russian presence in Syria as a counterattack, and an attempt to retake Palmyra would help justify his intervention.


Another option is an attack against the Nusra Front in Idlib province.


"Their first major attack will show us what they intend," said a Lebanese military expert.


Ron Ben-Yishai contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 09.21.15, 23:59
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