Faced with Russian-Iranian-Turkish Takeover of Syria, Israel Launches an ICBM Upgrade Program

The impact of the trilateral summit called by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday, Nov, 22 blew back instantly on Jerusalem, 1,376 kilometers away. As Putin conferred with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, Hassan Rouhani and Tayyip Erdogan, on Syria’s future, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu huddled urgently with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott on its grave implications for Israel’s security.

The Russian leader was able to inform his two partners, after his phone conversation with President Donald Trump the day before, that since the defeat of ISIS, America had lost interest in Syria. The trio were therefore on their own and free to take charge of Syrian affairs. And so, in Sochi, a triumvirate was born for ruling Syria.

Putin made his first move towards this end on July 7 when he met face to face with Trump in Hamburg and sold him the plan for Syrian de-escalation zones to be set up and monitored by Russia, Iran and Turkey. The US president went along with the plan, because it suited his policy of absolving the United States of involvement in Syria’s domestic affairs.

However, the development caught Jerusalem wrong-footed. Israel had expected Trump to take action against the exposure of Israeli and Jordanian borders to the dangerous Iranian and Hizballah military presence. This did not happen. And Moscow quickly exploited the vacuum left by the United Sates to strengthen the partnership in Syria with Tehran and Ankara, whose Muslim leaders deem Israel their enemy. In the face of Israeli protests, Moscow asserted that the presence of Iran and its proxy Hizballah in Syria was legitimate

Israel’s steadfast policy of staying out of the Syrian conflict throughout its nearly seven years has therefore boomeranged badly. Not only is Israel short of levers for preventing hostile Iranian forces being deployed on its northern borders, but, as the participants in the Jerusalem meeting Wednesday realized, hostile Iranian aggression has never loomed so close. And worse, by abstaining from a role in the Syrian conflict, the potential outbreak of war with Iran in 2018 would find Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, unready.

Israel’s frequently reiterated policy of preventing the transfer of high-precision Iranian missiles to Hizballah never really worked. Those missiles were delivered after all and Iranian and Hizballah forces in Syria and Lebanon are currently armed with highly-accurate, advanced weapons.

Furthermore, Israel’s national security forecast estimated that, since Israel and its armed forces were in no danger of being confronted with a major, comprehensive war in the coming years, its ballistic missile development could safely be slowed and save on budget expenditure. This estimate may be proved wrong at any time now. But meanwhile, Israel’s famous edge in military technology has eroded, especially in the field of missiles, at a time that three military heavyweight powers, two of them hostile, are taking control of its northern neighbor.

The defense minister this week belatedly saw the light and registered a demand for an extra allocation outside the military budget amounting to the equivalent of $1.36 billion. DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that most of this sum will be urgently earmarked for developing a new generation of ballistic missiles, with more advanced targeting accuracy, or filling the gaps with purchases.. In particular, the Arrow III anti-missile missile system is in need of upgrading, and the warhead of the Jericho III, Israel’s only intercontinental ballistic missile, is less accurate when compared with the ICBMs currently in superpower use. They have an estimated CEP of 1,000 meters, a capacity which Iran’s ballistic missiles are reported to match.

The Middle East is seeing the start of a new arms race among a new set of contestants.

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