Russia struggling to stop the Iranian-Israeli shadow war in Syria

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(December 27, 2018 / JNS) It didn’t take long for the recent Israeli Air Force strikes on Iranian or Hezbollah targets in the Damascus area to receive Russian condemnation.

Russia issued a public rebuke to Israel, accusing it of conducting “provocative” attacks. The Russians also claimed to reveal operational details about the airstrikes, saying that six Israeli F-16 jets fired missiles at targets in Syria from Lebanese airspace.

According to the spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, the strikes endangered two civilian airliners that were on their way to land at airports in Damascus and Beirut. The spokesman claimed that Syrian air defense intercepted most of the Israeli missiles—a claim that remains unverified, and which could be part of a face-saving effort on behalf of the Assad regime.

These comments reflect a wider Russian frustration over its failure to end a shadow Israeli-Iranian war that continues to rage in Syria. It is a low-profile conflict, mostly fought away from the headlines, in which Israel is playing an active defense against Iran’s offensive attempt to set up a war outpost in Syria. Hundreds of Iranian targets in Syria have been destroyed in the past 18 months alone.

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