Strategic Affairs Minister Minister Yuval Steinitz disclosed another concern regarding the sale of Russian S300 air-defense systems to Syria — that they could wind up in Iran, The Jerusalem Post reported.
“Maybe, because of the disorder in Syria, of the very heavy dependence of Syria on the Iranians’ assistance, some of those weapons might find their way to the Iranians. This is very bad, and against the weapons embargo on Iran,” Steinitz explained in a speech at The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) on Tuesday.
“We are very concerned about the new supply of sophisticated arms to Syria itself,” Steinitz said. “We don’t understand Russia’s position about it. Why should anyone supply [Syrian President Bashar] Assad with advanced ballistic or anti-aircraft or anti-ship rockets at this very time?”
Initially, Israeli fears that chemical and other weapons might be transferred from Syria to Hizbullah explained its anxiety over the unstability in Syria. But now other concerns are being made known.
Steinitz added that although the missiles were primarily defensive — because of their ability to shoot down aircraft up to 200 km away — they could also be used offensively. Deployed over Damascus, these missiles could target Israeli aircraft, including civilian aircraft, flying over Haifa and Tel Aviv, he said.
Steinitz, who said Israel has good relations with Russia and a “very good and close dialogue” with the Kremlin, added that there was reason to believe the Russians could be persuaded not to deliver these weapons at this time.
“We have reason to believe that there is still room to convince the Russians on this matter,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that Assad’s claim to have received the missiles were false, and that they would not arrive before next year, if at all.