Just off a 10-hour visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, and less than a day after Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday he doesn't expect Russia to act against Israeli forces as they continue exchanging fire with Syria.
It appears the meeting wrapped up at the very moments a major escalation began along the Golan Heights, with both Syria and Israel trading blame for an initial attack which quickly escalated into Israeli cruise missile launches and shelling on targets in southern Syria and notably, on Damascus itself.Putin and Netanyahu at the "Victory Day Parade" at Moscow's Red Square on Wednesday. Image source: Reuters via Newsweek.
The question remains, did Putin give Netanyahu the green light for tonight's events?
If it wasn't clear over the past weeks and months of unprovoked Israeli strikes on Syria—ostensibly to roll back Iranian troop presence—then it should be very clear by now that Syria, Israel, and Iran are now in a state of war and all signs point to a continued intensification of the conflict.
And crucially, there's currently no sign that Russia came to the aid of its close ally as rockets rained down on Damascus overnight. Russia has routinely looked the other way while Israel has conducted, by its own admission, over one hundred major strikes on Syria—most of which have come after Russian intervention on behalf of Assad in 2015.
As Reuters reported late in the day Wednesday, Netanyahu told reporters just before departing Moscow: “Given what is happening in Syria at this very moment, there is a need to ensure the continuation of military coordination between the Russian military and the Israel Defence Forces.” The Russians and Israelis coordinate their actions through a direct military hotline intended to avoid accidental clashes which could lead to escalation between the two countries.
A reportedly "upbeat" Netanyahu further said, “"In previous meetings, given statements that were putatively attributed to - or were made by - the Russian side, it was meant to have limited our freedom of action or harm other interests and that didn’t happen, and I have no basis to think that this time will be different."
Thus it appears Israel may have been given a green light by Putin to engage targets in Syria,...