The Russian decision to set up 8 military positions along the Syrian-Israeli Golan border will impede rather than help consolidate security on Israel’s northern front – in more ways than one:
- The positions will be manned by Chechen recruits in Russian uniforms. (By the law of Chechnya, nationals are barred from fighting in foreign wars.)
- They will serve alongside UNDOF monitors in the buffer zone without legal status. The presence of foreign forces is not covered in the 1974 Israel-Syrian disengagement agreement which created the buffer zone. The agreement was extended by the UN Security council a month ago.
- This may be a mere formality until they are called into action. How and on behalf of which party they respond are moot questions.
- What will Israel’s government and military decision-makers do if the Russian orders to their unit run contrary to Israel’s security interests – or, still worse, impede Israeli operations against aggressors? The Israeli Air Force, for instance, may be tied down from striking terrorists in the buffer zone by fear of Russian policemen getting in the way.
- And what will happen if the IDF needs to cross into the buffer zone to terminate illicit Hizballah or pro-Iranian Shiite militia incursions? DEBKAfile’s military sources stress that these are not just hypothetical situations; they are already real, although Israel’s national leaders are keeping their intrusion under wraps. This is because they accepted the Russian police monitors without stipulating the prior removal from the buffer zone of all Hizballah and Shiite forces deployed there by Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers.
- On Aug. 1, Russian Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev sold Sputnik News a fairy story. In deference to Israel’s concerns, he said “We have managed to achieve the pullback of Iranian units to within 85km from the border.” World media parroted this tale as solemn truth without checking its authenticity. DEBKAfile’s military sources can assert after investigation that the Russian envoy was not only wide of the mark, but in the 48 hours since he spoke, Shiite and Hizballah forces have crept further west and taken up new positions that are several meters closer than before to the Israeli border.
- Since Vladimir Putin’s senior adviser on Syria is so free with falsehoods, how can Israel risk entrusting its security in the Golan buffer zone to the hands of a Russian military police force?