High-ranking American military sources revealed Monday, Dec. 8, that Israel’s air strikes near Damascus the day before wiped out newly-arrived Russian hardware including missiles that were dispatched post haste to help Syria and Hizballah frustrate a US plan for a no-fly zone over northern Syria. [Editor’s Note: this American leak looks like an attempt to excuse their unwilinglness to go ahead with the no fly zone plan, while sabotaging Russain-Israeli relations. Last year Russia and Israel agreed to set up a secure hotline beteen Moscow and Jerusalem to handle such a possible crisis. The ramifications remain to be seen.]
The advanced weapons were sent over, as debkafile reported exclusively Sunday, after Russian President Vladimir Putin learned that the Obama administration and the Erdogan government were close to a final draft on a joint effort to activate a no-fly zone that would bar Syrian air force traffic over northern Syria.
The Kremlin has repeatedly warned – of late in strong messages through back channels – that the establishment of a no-fly or buffer zone in any part of Syria would be treated as direct American intervention in the Syria war and result in Russian military intervention for defending the Assad regime.
According to the US-Turkish draft, American warplanes would be allowed to take off from the Turkish airbase of Incirlik in the south for operations against Syrian warplanes, assault helicopters or drones entering the no-go zone. Thus far, Ankara has only permitted US surveillance aircraft and drones the use of Incirlik for tracking the movements of Islamic State fighters in northern Syria.
The Obama administration was long deterred from implementing a no-fly zone plan by the wish to avoid riling Moscow or facing the hazards of Syria’s world-class air defense system.
But Washington was recently won over to the plan by a tacit deal with Damascus for American jets to be allowed entry to help Kurdish fighters defend their northern Syrian enclave of Kobani against capture by al Qaeda’s IS invaders.
However, the US administration turned down a Turkish demand to extend the no-fly zone from their border as far as Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, over which Syrian army forces are battling rebels and advancing slowly into the town.
The no-fly zone planned by US strategists would be narrow – between a kilometer and half a kilometer deep inside Syria. However Moscow is standing fast against any such plan and objects to US planes making free of Syrian airspace, a freedom they are now afforded over Kobani.
To drive this point home, the Russians delivered a supply of advanced anti-air missiles and radar, whose use by the Syrian army and transfer to Hizballah in Lebanon were thwarted by the Israeli air strikes Sunday.
Moscow reacted swiftly and angrily with a Note to the United Nations Monday accusing Israel of “aggressive action” and demanding “that such attacks should not happen again… Moscow is deeply worried by this dangerous development, the circumstances of which demand an explanation.”
The Assad regime has held back from reacting to past Israeli air raids for preventing advanced weaponry from reaching Hizballah. This time, spokesmen in Damascus warned that their government’s response would be clandestine and cause Israel “unimaginable harm.”