Syria’s Air-Defense Arsenal: The Russian Missiles Keeping Assad in Power

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AP

A Russian S-300 antiaircraft missile system in an undisclosed location in Russia

Boasting about one’s weaponry is nothing unusual in war, where there’s little way of confirming the veracity of the claim. In that, Syrian President Bashar Assad was following a long tradition of wartime leaders, when he told the Hizballah-backed Lebanese channel al-Manar last Thursday that he had sufficient stockpiles of Russian weapons to pose a threat to Israel, thanks to arms deals with Moscow that date to before the war erupted in February 2011. “The contracts have nothing to do with the crisis,” Assad said in the interview. “We have negotiated with them on different kinds of weapons for years, and Russia is committed to honoring these contracts.”

In fact, Assad’s boast might be more than bluster. While there’s no sign that Moscow has delivered the long-range S-300 missiles that Israel has vowed to take out in bombing strikes (Russian officials estimate their earliest delivery date for the S-300s is late this year), Assad already has several air-defense systems from Moscow in his quiver, according to analysts who monitor arms shipments. In interviews they say they watched a steep military ramp-up by Syria in the period running up to the start of the war more than two years ago. While they agree that the S-300s are more accurate and have greater range than Assad’s current weapons systems, they say the Syrian leader is far from powerless without them. “We have seen over the past few years Russia supplying several different air-defense systems,” says Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher in the arms-transfer program of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks weapons flows worldwide. “They [Syrian government] have really increased their capability. The missiles are both short and long range. If the S-300s do arrive, that would top it all off.”

(MORE: The Syrian Chessboard: Behind the Game Played by Russia, Israel, the U.S. and Other Powers)

Among the missiles already in place are two regiments of S-200 surface-to-air missiles, which have a range of about 150 miles, “with no less than 240 missiles ready to be fired in a matter of minutes,” says Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military scientist and senior researcher at the London think tank, Royal United Services Institute. Sutyagin, who was jailed in Russia on charges of spying for the U.S. and freed as part of a spy-prisoner swap in 2010, says Assad “has a lot” of air-defense systems acquired from Russia, including between 12 and 20 short-range missile systems called Pantsyr-S, which have a range of about 7.5 miles and which can be mounted on vehicles. Those were delivered to Syria about a year ago, in what he believes is the latest confirmed arms shipment from Moscow. In addition, Assad has 1,200 air-defense guns and between 4,000 and 8,000 Strela portable shoulder-fired missiles. “That IS the GREAT stockpile of Russian air defense weaponry!” Sutyagin said in an e-mail to TIME.

(PHOTOS: Chaos and Killing in Syria: Photos of a Slow-Motion Civil War)

Since Syrian rebels have no airplanes for Syrian forces to shoot down, Assad’s impressive air-defense arsenal has little bearing on the grueling war that has ravaged large parts of the country and killed an estimated 90,000 Syrians. But the antiaircraft weapons would be crucial if the U.N. voted to impose a no-fly zone over Syria or if Israel expands its sporadic strikes on Syria into a sustained bombing campaign. At that point, the S-300 missiles, which have a longer range and greater accuracy than Assad’s current weaponry, could inflict bigger losses and strike deep into Israel in retaliation — hence, Israel’s fury over the arms deal. With the S-300s in place, says Wezeman, “If Israel starts an air campaign, they would maybe lose a few more planes than they have until now. It is not a system which cannot be destroyed, but it would be a bigger campaign,” he says.

(MORE: Arming Syria’s Rebellion: How Libyan Weapons and Know-How Reach Anti-Assad Fighters)

For Western leaders weighing their military options against Assad, the crucial lessons are from Libya, where NATO launched a massive bombing campaign in March 2011, after the U.N. Security Council voted to stop Muammar Gaddafi’s forces from advancing on civilians in Benghazi. Within days of the first U.S. Tomahawk missiles hitting Libya, Gaddafi’s air-defense systems had been crippled, and his military planes had been smashed or grounded. That allowed the Libyan rebels to advance quickly across the huge terrain of eastern Libya, although it took five months longer for them to capture Tripoli and drive out Gaddafi.

Syria’s military arsenal presents the West with a far different calculus, in part explaining why no Western country has intervened militarily so far. While Gaddafi had huge stocks of weaponry, including Russian and Chinese antiaircraft missiles, much of it was discovered after Gaddafi was killed in October 2011, lying unused in warehouses. That suggested that the Libyan military did not know how to install the new weapon systems or had not had time to do so, according to military analysts. And Assad could also have learned some lessons from Gaddafi’s spectacular defeat. Gaddafi lacked long-range missiles capable of combating the high-altitude bombing strikes that NATO fighter jets conducted over Libya. “It’s against these types of operations that, for example, the S-300s or other SAMs [surface-to-air missiles] could be used with some efficiency,” Wezeman says. “In Libya the systems were old and out of date, and the Libyans did not really know how to operate them. It would be much more difficult for outsiders to intervene in Syria, in the way that took place in Libya.”

41 comments
HarryAchari
HarryAchari

close your ears and open eyes. not the other way around

owen7065
owen7065

Ah, it's good to see someone telling US/Israel/NWO to go fluck themselves.

azmalhome
azmalhome

Quran 58; 5. Indeed, those who oppose Allah and His Messenger are abasedas those before them were abased. And We have certainly sentdown verses of clear evidence. And for the disbelievers is a humiliating punishment.

Quran 73:8-9. And remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with [complete] devotion. [He is] the Lord of the East and the West; there is no deity except Him, so take Him as Disposer of [your] affairs………..

Nowadays Muslims are struggling for Islam, but they’re not going to follow the Quran and Prophet Mohammed about most of decision, they’re fighting following own theory that has several way for opportunity for them after termination the war.

http://azmalhome.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/violence-is-a-biggest-sin-in-islam-religion/

 

Blackdragon99
Blackdragon99

If those missiles did not pose a threat, why would the U.S. and Israel send delegations to Russia several times to beg and cry like scalded dogs to not send the missiles to Syria and previously to Iran and Iraq. These are the most formidable Anti-Aircraft missiles in the world, and these are not the Russians top shelf like the S400, S500 and now in development the S600. The Western Allied powers and their lackeys are feckless wussy wimps who don't know jack about having and maintaining an Empire, they betrayed the Russians on Libya and also Iran, Hezbollah and China are not going to allow that again. The U.S. was tied down in Iraq by only 20,000 freedom fighters using AK's, RPG's and IED's and it will cost us about 3 trillion dollars and all we have accomplished is make more Enemy's, get almost no Oil contracts, (China got the best contract), and because of their ignorance of the Shia - Sunni divide practically gave Iraq to Iran. In Afghanistan their again only about 30,000 fighters tied the U.S. down, and that will cost us 1 trillion dollars, while we blindly wander around in the graveyard of Empires with the same result as the British and Russians succumbed too. The Chinese are too smart to engage in reckless and costly wars like the fools that run U.S. and European countries who are all on the brink of Economic collapse. Their end in History has come, they are on the long and slow decline into the dustbin of history.

genericalternativeemail
genericalternativeemail

A battery of S-300''s would stop the U.S. Air Force?  Thanks for the giggle.  Let this serve as a reminder to the Syrian Electronic Army here that we aren't intervening because we can't, but because we don't want to, and you guys are doing us a favor right now.

IvoStoichkov
IvoStoichkov

The important question here is why you should fight Assad’s army. Syrian soldiers fight predominantly Al Qaeda forces, protecting Christians and Muslim Shea minorities from imminent massacres. If Assad falls Syria would be a worse place than Iraq or Afghanistan.

ReyHast
ReyHast

Israel should stay off and stop playing a role given by no country or nobody, Israel has been in possession (since 1970's) of arms and nuclear weapon in violations of many world treaties. if we need to impose some sanction Israel should be the real target. Israel invades other countries expecting NON retaliations. I wants respect show respect A DECLARATION BEFORE THE UN OF ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS THAT Israel has in he's possession and REQUEST OF THEIR DESTRUCTION. If we want PEACE show to the WORLD.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

NATO Study: 70% of Syrians Support Syrian State and President al-Assad 

http://sana.sy/eng/22/2013/06/03/485493.htm

Jun 03, 2013

 NATO data revealed that 70 percent of the Syrians support the Syrian state and President Bashar al-Assad.

The data, which was published by the U.S. newspaper "World Tribune" showed that the people in Syria are tired of the war against the foreign –backed opposition, "

" President al-Assad will win this war mainly because the people are cooperating with him," a Western source familiar with the data said.

The study, complied Western-sponsored activists and organizations, showed that 20 percent of the Syrians adopt neutral position while only 10 percent support the armed opposition.

The study added: " The Syrians were alarmed by the Al-Qaeda takeover of the opposition, underlining that what is left is the foreign fighters who are sponsored by Qatar and Saudi Arabia". 

Patriotic Song. Syria

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XG1grfO6hd0

TedLeavensworth
TedLeavensworth

You start speaking about how Asad killed off some 90000  of his own population and end up  blaming Israel

This is some logic of cave people   for lol

ejpearcy
ejpearcy

i just can't understand why the babbling, blustering, baboon bibi isn't simply attacking the air defense systems that are already paid for by Syria and sitting on the ground in Russia. i don't suppose he's just a cowardly bully is he?!  Answer: He most certainly is and i hope that Mr. Putin and company will insure that bibi doesn't destroy those missiles whenever they are delivered and actuated in Syria, 

It is high time for US to inform Israel that the only way they are going to survive even in the short term is to practice being the best neighbor any nation could possibly hope for. That will, of course, take a lot of work, but they being as special a people as they say they are is eminently possible given a sane dose of human will power on their part.

JimmySwon
JimmySwon

Would you rather have a western educated dictator or a bunch of terrorists running a nation? Frankly my US tax payers dollars should not be wasted fighting for people that have nothing to do with the USA. Assad may be cruel.. But the middle east is incapable of democracy. Just look at IRAQ and Afghanistan. Iraq is nearly on verge of civil war and Afghanistan we have to keep our troops there as the terrorist groups swarm back to the areas once we leave. Saddam kept his people in line, Gadaffi kept his people in line. Assad keeps his people in line. If some have to die to keep the peace then so be it. I hope assad crushes the rebels now. Its not my job as an american to pay for more illegal wars! We are not the police of the orld.

ohmadaiz
ohmadaiz

The way the world has abandoned Syrians to their own fate, allowing gaps for a fundamentalist to hijack a very legitimate uprising with very legitimate demands is heartbreaking. There needs to be an intervention, a powerful swift one, there's still time to save more lives and put things back on track. 

RudyHaugeneder
RudyHaugeneder

Just because Arab militaries have performed poorly, at best, in the past half century of Middle East conflict, there is no reason to assume this will again happen.  Statistically, Syrians are overdue for a major and lasting victory against now overconfident and arrogant adversaries.

To assume otherwise, would, breaking down the word, make an "ass" of "U" and "me" -- and could change the region's  politics because the Arab world would no longer fear the infidels,  put aside sectarian differences, and launch jihad against the perceived Crusaders and the IDF. Any Muslim leader (including Indonesia) who doesn't totally support the new battle for global spiritual dominance would soon be dead. 

ArmandWinter
ArmandWinter

And McCain wants to bomb these with cruise missiles! Ha!  Are you going to clear it with Putin first?

muttering_something
muttering_something

Assad's weapons apparently have been asleep whenever the IAF bombs his installations. Perhaps he can contract with Israel.

CodyRoy
CodyRoy

yes anti-aircraft missiles keep assad in power, mmhm shooting down all those FSA attack planes and helicopters right??? Were not getting involved in syria so dont try to make a case for it with poorly logic'd articles on warfare.  Both sides are our enemies and theyre killing each other, so sit back relax and get some popcorn for the show. Also consult someone who knows about warfare and weapons systems before you write an article or god forbid use google to look them up

marioty
marioty

Sure make that hungry hyenas in israel  think twice before invading another country in the region

Kafantaris
Kafantaris

We are made of stone when it comes to Syria, and Qusair is proof positive of this. 

As for the U.N., it is impotent as presently constituted. Why even bother to have it around? 

We need another world body with power to timely act when need be. The results of inaction are now all over the Middle East, and we reap what we have sown.

And we were surely naïve to expect neighboring countries to remain indifferent while the Syrian people on both sides suffer.  


Lexx
Lexx

@genericalternativeemail Really only one way to find out huh? Given the US track record in Iraq and Afghanistan, a guy with a sling-shot would stop the US Air Force.

kuei12
kuei12

@IvoStoichkov ,,,Why protect the Christians? Do you like child molesting priests? Seems to me we would all be better off without any religion.

sridhar.sid
sridhar.sid

I agree completely. Why the West is taking sides, when the opposition includes many criminals and radical Sunnis is hard to explain. Except that Oil power(Saudis/qataris) is supporting fellow Sunnis and the West has more to gain by doing the same! Russia is providing a counter balance, which is a welcome development

ReyHast
ReyHast

@Sibir every country deserve to patronize their own destiny, intervention from other country other they own countryman's should be considered anti democracy  and pro clandestine dictatorship.

genericalternativeemail
genericalternativeemail

@JimmySwon 

Exactly.  The Middle East is too riven by tribalism and different hostile branches of Islam for democracy to work unless the population were completely homogenous.  And those homogenous populations want a caliphate.

Lets not intervene in this Shia-Sunni war.

six
six

Jimmyswon, libya is a fine example of how people as a whole can free themselves and is a prime example of democracy growing in.the middle east, kuwait, etc etc etc. your blind and misled ,

ejpearcy
ejpearcy

@JimmySwon The middle east is surely capable of democracy though what our's has devolved into is a grave insult to the concept isn't it. Here, money walks over everyone with less money albeit often more truth and goodness by far than the Mammonite stooges who run things here and in the western world we laud. 

Because of our signal failures to deliver good, honest, fair, and kind obedience to our own ideals; we are, as you say, in no position whatsoever to tell the rest of the world to follow our example or die by our weapons systems and economic strangulation.  Also as you might have added: we are in no position to wage wars on behalf of the criminal state of Israel, when our own citizens are in great need of support as is our nation per se.

Leave the middle east to resolve their own challenges while we resolve our challenges. 

AbbyStockton
AbbyStockton

Ughhh, according to all the politicians, we are. To answer your statement of not being the policeman of the world ... Hahahaha

Adam_Smith
Adam_Smith

 @ohmadaizThis is the conventional interpretation but I think that the potential for the fundamentalists has been very strong from the start. Their religious motivations, coming on top of secular anti-regime motivations they share with other rebels, give the fundamentalists an advantage in coherence and consistency leading to stronger organization. No matter what the West did or did not do, the fundamentalists were overwhelming likely to "hijack" the rebellion.

zedeyejoe
zedeyejoe

@RudyHaugeneder  

In fact every reason. It is not like flipping a coin, it comes down to training and experience.

I remember the words of a journalist who visited the Syrian armoured division sent to fight for the Coalition in Gulf War I. He asked why the men were so cheerful when they were going to fight their Arab brothers.  The reply came back, at least its not the Israelis, we might win this one.

JimmySwon
JimmySwon

@RudyHaugeneder  Please... The middle east is full of arrogant warlord/dictators who control their people through fear. They have poor sub par weapons they buy from Russia and cannot stand against US supplied nations. The fact is every time they attack israel, they get their ***s handed to them on a platter. Even when they outnumber the jews 5 to 1.  I dont see that ever changing, the middle east has not been a great power since the 1300s. Id love to see Israel gone, but that will never happen.

T.J.McBearsNY
T.J.McBearsNY

@muttering_something I have a great deal of respect for the IAF but my grandfather and his cropduster could penetrate the air defences of Israel's adversaries

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@Kafantaris

The Armed Forces Restore Security and Stability to al-Qseir City

Jun 05, 2013       http://imgur.com/RnN3RhX

HOMS COUNTRYSIDE, (SANA)- The armed forces on Wednesday restored security and stability to the whole city of al-Qseir in Homs countryside.

An official source told SANA that the army carried out qualitative and prompt operations to restore security and safety to the city after the killing of a big number of terrorists and the surrender of others.

The army destroyed the terrorists' hideouts with all the weapons and ammunition inside them, and the tunnels and barricades where the terrorists were fortified.

The source added that the armed forces dismantled dozens of explosive devices planted by terrorists in the citizens' houses and on the public roads to hinder the progress of the army.

"However, the determination of the army to save the city from the armed terrorist groups led to those groups' full defeat and collapse," the source said.

The source went on saying "Our armed forces are now continuing the process of looking for explosive devices and criminal tools which the terrorists left behind in al-Qseir city."

http://sana.sy/eng/337/2013/06/05/485833.htm

 

Lexx
Lexx

@Kafantaris If you don't like the way the UN functions, you unfortunately have missed the whole point of its existence. The security council vetoes are in place to serve a critical purpose: gridlock action if need be to AVOID WAR AMONG MAJOR POWERS(security council members). Yes you heard right, inaction is necessary to avoid unilateral moves by individual Major Powers. 

I'm so tired of hearing smart-azz comments from noobs who think they know how to run global politics better. Learn how the current world structure works first.

HarryAchari
HarryAchari

@kuei12 @IvoStoichkov

yes, you got it. Religions terrorise people around the globe. Millions of innocents become criminals and become victims. Innocent women and children have nothing to say but following their leaders at home. There will be peace without religions and imperialism.

JimmySwon
JimmySwon

@AbbyStockton Then you have morons like John McCain who have to encourage us to go to ANY fight thats happening. The fool says "only 7% of the rebels are terrorists". Then gets photo'd with 2 "terrorist kidnappers". 

This is all happening because Assad dropped the petrodollar.. which made the US lose a LOT of money. The cold war is still very much alive with many nations backed by Russia.

I love america but I am tired of my government saying they dont know how to cut spending and save us from our massive debt, yet feeling its our job to go save the Libyan people or the iraqis or the syrians. Not my problem.. Assad seems to be a decent guy and a good leader.

JoeGrobmeier
JoeGrobmeier

@Lexx @Kafantaris If you think the un is so great then why do they allow Israel Atomic bombs they said they would use if necessary .The real problem is the Israel government....

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@Lexx@Kafantaris 

Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Victorovich Lavrov: «One very wise man in response to the charges in the address of the UN in the fact that it is not enough what does and does not in a position to stop constantly appearing somewhere conflicts, he said that the UN was not created in order to make the earth a Paradise, but for the fact that humanity was not in hell."

Lakhdar Brahimi: "if the only alternative is really hell or a political process, then all of us should work tirelessly for a political process."

 

AbbyStockton
AbbyStockton

I don't think the democrats are exactly clean either as well as newspapers. You can tell that the newspapers want this war. Look at it. They all say Assad is a bad guy. Not one of them say that it's possible that he's a good guy. I never met Assad , but how can everyone come to the conclusion that this one guy is bad within the continental USA?