Quoting unnamed US officials, the New York Times today reported that Russia has sent sophisticated anti-ship missiles to Syria as part of a longstanding arms trade agreement. The missiles, known as the Yakhont, are radar-guided, supersonic missiles, with a range of 75 to 185 miles, and intended for coastal defense.
The shipment raises concerns about the viability of intervention in the Syrian crisis. The Yakhont system has advanced radar guidance systems that would enable the missile to evade ship defenses. The United States argues that the missile system would force any potential naval operations further off Syria’s coasts.
Beyond the potential impact on foreign intervention in the Syrian crisis, BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus argues that the missile system is significant for two reasons.
First, by following through on the sale agreed to in 2007, Russia demonstrates its ongoing support for and commitment to the Syrian regime. The sale highlights Russia’s desire to prevent possible Western intervention. It also suggests that Russia would likely oppose efforts to secure approval for such intervention through the United Nations Security Council.
Second, the sale may also raise concerns on the part of Israel about the potential transfer of weapons from Syria to its Hezbollah allies in Syria. Israel has already warned Syria that such a transfer would cross red line that could prompt a new wave of Israeli airstrikes against Syrian forces.
What do you think? Could Russia’s weapon sales to Syria undermine potential resolution of the Syrian crisis? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.