Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem are wielding heavy guns to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from supplying Iran with advanced Sukhoi Su-35 jets and S-400 air defense systems, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources disclose. Each of the three Middle East powers, while combining forces for the same end, has its own form of leverage: The two Gulf powers brandish the option of walking away from their deal with Moscow to keep oil supplies down and world prices high – providing vital revenue for Putin’s Ukraine war chest. Israel, for its part, say some Middle East sources, is waving the option of extending its regular air strikes in Syria from Iran-related targets to pillars of Bashar Assad’s regime.
In 2016, Moscow consented under a secret accord with Jerusalem to turn a blind eye to Israel’s aerial campaign against the military presence of Iran and its proxy militias in Syria – provided that the Assad regime was not placed in jeopardy. According to US intelligence sources, the Israeli air force’s latest attack in Syria on Tuesday, March 7, was massive enough to put Aleppo’s international airport out of service and remind Moscow of Israel’s capacity to harm Damascus itself should sophisticated Russian hardware reach Iranian hands.
The damage to the airport and its runways put the facility out of commission for a long period and is forcing the Syrians to resort to Latakia airport.
According to Middle East sources, Arab-Israeli hassle has so far persuaded Putin to deny Tehran access to most of the Western weapons captured by Russian forces in Ukraine. The only systems released as yet are Javelin and Stinger anti-tank missiles, which Iran demanded as models for replication in its own industry. It is in the area of attack drones that Russo-Iranian military cooperation in Ukraine is most extensive.
Dana Stroul, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said recently in Dubai: “We are increasing cooperation now – intelligence sharing, understanding these networks and increasing our collective defensive capabilities – so that we are prepared to counter these threats in the region.”
Our sources also reveal that the Iranians, in an effort to tempt Moscow to part with its superior jets and air defense systems, are now offering to top up their supply of drones with combat troops, namely Afghan and Lebanese and Pakistani Shiite militias. To this end, they have reconstituted the Patemiyoun and Zainebiyoun Brigades which fought for Iran in the Syria conflict and sent them to training camps in Iran to prepare for consignment to Ukraine.