Yesterday, on Wednesday, 6 February, Russia let the world know its intent to arm Syria's military with its latest high-tech weapons. According to Israeli analysts, they include things like winged mortars that hover until instructed where to strike, unmaned mini-vehicles, shoulder-fired missiles that target tanks with lasers, and more.
Moscow announced its intent in a tucked away comment made by the Deputy Chairman of the country's upper house of parliament. In an interview carried by Russia's official news agencies, RIA and DEBKAfile, a question was, in effect, posed by Russia to Russia:
As commonly known, Russia is reducing its presence in Syria, but the terrorism threat remains. In these circumstances, is the Russian Federation looking for other ways to support Syria, for examply, by supplying arms and aircraft?
The question was posed to Ilyas Umakhanov, Deputy Chairman of Russia's Federation Council which, for its part, is the upper house of Russia's parliament.
"Russia will continue an asymmetrical response [to terrorism] in Syria, which may include the regrouping of forces and means... and of course the supply of high-precision weapons to the Syrian government," Umakhanov replied.
And, he added, "It is impossible to defeat terrorism only by efforts of one country. Terrorism has assumed the global character and, having achieved obvious victory in one place, there is no reason to create additional vacuums where terrorists can resume military operations."
What did Umakhanov mean? What was Russia telling the world?
According to the Israeli intelligence news service DEBKAfile, the message was twofold. One part was a pre-announcement of Russia's new coalition in the fight against ISIS: namely, a joint military effort by the US, Russia, Syria and Turkey. According to recent reports, it is an alliance that Russian President Putin and US President Trump have been negotiating since Trump took office on 20 January.
The other part of the message conveyed by Russia is its intent to supply the Syrian military with Moscow's most advanced weapons. The idea is to ramp up the Syrian part of the pending alliance so that it share comparable weapons with others members.
While Israel is pleased to see that neither Iran or its terrorist proxy group in Lebanon, Hezbollah - the "party of Allah" - are part of the nascent realignment of power in Syria, the fact remains that Damascus, including its military, is no less a puppet of Tehran than is Hezbollah.
What's more, Hezbollah is not only a sibling puppet of the Islamic Republic, it also has shed a lot blood fighting for Assad's government. This creates a "debt of gratitude" that, Israel fears, Assad might repay with Russian high tech weapons.
What do those weapons include? According to DEBKAfile, these items, and variations of them, are on the list:
✓ small drones armed with precision bombs;
✓ shoulder-fired, laser-guided antitank and antiaircraft missiles;
✓ “loitering munitions” which follow their targets after being dropped from planes;
✓ small unmanned vehicles for clearing tunnels;
✓ advanced night vision equipment;
✓ laser and infrared sights;
✓ intelligence systems for locating targets; and
✓ long-range sniper rifles.
DEBKAfile also reports that Russia's announcement to provide these items was not expected by Israel's government or military. Throughout the six-year war in Syria, it has made every effort to keep these very weapons from falling into the arsenal of Damascus and hence, inevitably, into the vast weapon caches of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
For Jerusalem, Russia's provision of these items guarantees that some, at least, will find their way to the Islamic Republic of Iran and its "party of Allah" for the purpose of making war against the Jewish state.