– On Russia’s decision to deliver S-300 air defense system to Syria
Editor’s Note: Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli, our editor-in-chief, was interviewed by Sputnik International 25 Sept 2018. Here below some edited excerpts. The original interview was published by Sputnik International, headed “S-300 Deliveries May Help Deter Any Power to Strike Syria – Professor“. There was also an aired live-interview on a similar subject, and with a transcript published by Sputnik International with the heading ‘Iranians Are in Syria Legally, They Were Invited by Syrian Gov’t’ – Professor“. /Dr. Lena Oske, acting editor at The Indicter Magazine.
1. What is your assessment of Russia’s decision to deliver a modern air defense system to Syria?
The decision is hardly a surprise. There is long chain of developments here, leading to the finally implementation of the s-300 supplying to the Syrians –meaning, concretely, to the Syrian military. Whereas the deployment of S-300, and even of S-400 systems, amidst the main Russian military bases in Syria, was already a known fact and of much earlier date.
Already in 2013 there were plans to supply the Syrian military with these defence systems, plans that were put on hold after appeals which the Israelis made at that time. Later, in April this year, that pledge done by Russia in 2013 (of not sending the S-300 to Syria) was clearly declared obsolete. That was in the aftermath of the tripartite strikes on Syria, and where Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that “Moscow was ready to consider any options to help Syrian forces to curb further aggression.” A measure that neither was implemented that time –again due to the Israelis special request.
So, the news of the sending of the S-300 within the next two weeks could hardly be considered as a total surprise, or as an abrupt escalation ‘out of the blue’, as some Western media outlets are presenting the events.
The initiative of this move does not reside on the Russians, but their action is instead a reactive military response to a new behavior by the Israeli Air Force in regards to the Russian forces stationed in Syria. The Israeli attack on Latakia, the aircraft vs antiaircraft combat over there was either the Russians nor the Syrians initiative, but corresponds to a new daring move from the IAF –possibly sanctioned at a higher level of government, but at the very least at the Defence Ministtry level led by Mr Avigdor Lieberman.
This new IAF behavior is said to have de facto broken the agreement between Israel and Russia regarding deconflicting procedures, obligatory reports before strikes, geographic place of targets, timing, etc. Worse, the Israeli attack on Latakia ended in the downing of the Russian IL-20 aircraft and the demise of its crew of service men, 15 Russian lives.
Those infringements by the IAF are the new development. And I would suppose that a main aspect comprised in the final agreements between Israel and Russia –along these years of halting the array of S-300 systems for the Syrian defences– it must have been also a pledge by the Israeli Air Force of never causing damage to the Russian military outlets there, let alone events that could result in the killing of Russian military personnel.
A second aspect, which in my opinion it should deserve more focus in the current geopolitical analyses and media reporting on the “S-300” issue, is that the defence system to be delivered to Syria is about a modern, updated defence system which includes mechanisms able to distinguish with heightened precision ‘foes’ from ‘friendly’ aircraft. So, the sending of the S-300 is clearly aimed to protect the lives and increase the security of Russian servicemen stationed in Syria. This is the real emphasis, and corresponds to what the Russian authorities centrally meant when they announced they will be taken “appropriate response” regarding the Latakia incidents.
Lastly, regarding the timing, it is high remarkable that the Latakia airstrike took place shortly after the agreement Turkey/Russia on the establishment of a demilitarized zone in Northern Syria.
2. In your view, will that help prevent further accidents?
Referring to the security of Russian servicemen in Syria, definitely yes. It also may help to deter any other power to airstrike Syria, particularly in the proximity of Russian deployments.
3. What is Israel’s reaction likely to be?
According to Lieberman, Israel’s Defence Minister, the IAF would destroy any site aimed to attack its aircraft. But I believe that such statement was more intended to be heard by the Israeli domestic politics. Also, the statement could end being a political boomerang for Israel. I mean, everybody understand that the S-300 is a defense system, an antiaircraft system activated only by an attack –which in the case of Israel Air Force, non-provoked attacks constitutes violation of international law, not only infringement of Syrian airspace. Liebermans’ ‘warning’ conveys at the same time an announce that such kind of violations of international law shall further occur on the Syrian-conflict scenario – all which can be subject of condemnation by the EU and international community.
4. How would these affect relations between Russia and Israel?
So far, and during a long time, the relations between Russia and Israel have been characterized as good relations and also under a “realpolitik” frame. Several conflictive situations in the past regarding the Syrian issue have been solved politically and diplomatically, including direct contacts, by the two countries. This empirical observation may anticipate that it will be the same in the future.
However, the new political situation in Israel may somehow protract the reaching of an understanding on the current issue (Latakia attack, S-300, etc.). As I see it, there might be a certain ‘competition’ among the political parties forming the government coalition as to how presenting the patriotic or nationalistic message more clear to the electors of the upcoming polls. For instance, media reports indicate that the party of Minister of Defence Lieberman is losing support with regards to the party of Mr Netanyahu.
5. Russia’s military has accused their Israeli counterparts of ‘ungratefulness’ following the incident. Do you agree with this assessment and why?
There is a context issue here, which is whether the Russian presence in Syria –and I focus here on Russia as a peace-broker power– has been contributing as stabilization factor in the Middle East. The effects of that endeavour by Russia has benefited the area as a whole, specifically those in Israel and elsewhere favouring political solving-strategies instead of sterile ‘to-the-bitter-end” military options which, has we have seen have not reach any durable peace over there.
Then we have some concrete measures adopted by the Russian command, for instance the patrolling in the Golan Heights, etc. A main contribution to Israel that those activities have signifies, so far, has been the decreasing or even relatively absence of significant attacks to Israel from Syria territory, into Israel, by the different forces traditionally considered Israel enemies. I mean, the presence of Russia in Syria has been a moderate factor, if you take it from the perspective of Israel.
And the above contrast with the Israeli airstrike-campaign of over and over again targeting sites they say have considered important for Israeli strategic defence.
Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli (photo at left, at the Geneva Press Club conference, Nov 2017) is professor emeritus of epidemiology with research focus on Injury epidemiology, medicine doktor i psykiatri (PhD, Karolinska Institute), and formerly Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School. He is the founder and chairman of Swedish Professors and Doctors for Human Rights and editor-in-chief of The Indicter. Also publisher of The Professors’ Blog, and CEO of Libertarian Books – Sweden. Author of “Sweden VS. Assange – Human Rights Issues.”
Media contributions: Op-ed articles in Dagens Nyheter (DN), Svenska Dagbladet (Svd), Aftonbladet, Västerbotten Kuriren, Dagens Medicin, the Journal of the Swedish Medical Association (Läkartidningen) and other Swedish media. Contributing articles in Global Research (Canada) and Izvestia (Russia). Exclusive interviews in Dagens Nyheter (DN), Expressen, SvD and Aftonbladet, TASS, El Telégrafo, Sputnik, and in Swedish TV channels Svt 2, TV4, TV5. Other international TV interviews: Norway TV, Italy TG, RT, Russia Channel 1, Rossiya 24, TVN Chile, Italian and UK channels. /Dr. Lena Oske, acting editor at The Indicter Magazine.