The idea is not new – Iran has long been eyeing plans to create its own naval base on the Mediterranean coast. There is simply no other option besides using one of the ports of Syria (at least for geographical, at least political considerations). Therefore, the message that Iran rents the port of Latakia from October 1 for its own purposes was quite expected. It is assumed that such an agreement was signed by Presidents Bashar Asad and Hassan Rouhani during the February meeting in Tehran. And now the logistics preparation of the berths and port infrastructure for the arrival of the new “owners” has begun.
Naturally, we will evaluate such an event solely from the point of view of its profitability or disadvantage for Russia. In this situation, as usual, there are some pitfalls. One of them is quite obvious that the President of Syria, Assad, is smoothly coming out from under the influence of Moscow, no longer as often as before conferring with Russian President Vladimir Putin and not asking for military assistance. This is a normal phenomenon for the Middle East, when the padish begins to forget about those who helped defend the palace and raises its head higher and higher, over which sharp scimitars do not cut air with steel.
In general, Assad did not consult with Putin, deciding that the stake was an agreement with Rouhani three years ago, it makes no sense to remind her now as time passes. Bashar Asad has been feeling more confident lately in the presidential chair and is becoming a more independent politician, which is also a completely understandable phenomenon. Naturally, for Syria, it is now extremely important to restore ties with its neighbors – Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Israel.
With the first three, everything is relatively clear and understandable, there are no particular conflict situations. With Turkey it is more difficult – there are territorial disputes, and different attitudes towards the Kurdish Workers’ Party (Kurdistan is located on the territory of both countries), and the consequences of the current civil war in Syria. It is Russia that acts as a third deterrent force.
With Israel, everything is bad. And although hostilities over the Golan Heights have not been fought for forty years, Syria regards them as its illegally occupied territory. Plus, Tel Aviv aviation regularly conducts rocket attacks on the territory of Syria, aiming, allegedly, at the Iranian military personnel stationed there.
Iran, despite the absence of a common land border with Syria, is the main ally of Damascus in the Middle East, and its soldiers from the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) of at least 12,000 people take part in the fighting on the side of government forces . It is clear that Assad readily goes on contacts with Iran, including on the provision of a naval base in the territory of his country. Perhaps, bearing in mind the fact that the Iranian air defenses, which will be placed in Latakia to cover military installations, will also shoot down Israeli planes. What Russia is not doing now.
Russia supplied the Syrian army with the S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems and trained Syrian crews to work with them. It was assumed that the C-300 “Favorite” in many ways will change the strategy of air defense of Damascus. Moreover, the most “advanced” complexes, S-300PMU-2, were set in Syria, capable of destroying aerodynamic targets at a distance of 3 to 200 kilometers, ballistic targets at a distance of 5 to 40 kilometers. In this case, the detection of targets occurs at a distance of 300 kilometers.
As far as we know, at present, there are 3 divisions of S-300 Favorit anti-aircraft missile systems in Syria (8 mobile installations in each). In order to create a “belt” of air defense around Damascus and a number of adjacent airfields, this is quite enough, but not to repel large-scale air raids throughout the country. At the same time, it is argued that Russia is creating a full-fledged classical air defense system in Syria, which will include a system of rocket fire of far and near radii, a cover for the air defense system, as well as a “all-high” radar field.
In St. Petersburg, the Investigation Committee began to carry out pre-investigation checks …
But now there is such a situation that Russian military advisers in Syria can only train their colleagues in the skill of air combat, without interfering in the course of hostilities. And those Russian air defense forces that cover the bases in Tartus and Hmeimim are responsible only for the security of their military facilities from the air.
And those Russian air defense forces that cover the bases in Tartus and Hmeimim are responsible only for the security of their military facilities from air attack. Otherwise, the Russians bring down the Americans or the Israelis — the consequences of the scandal are not by-passed. It is likely that the Syrian military is not given the opportunity to shoot down Israeli planes from S-300 complexes, so as not to provoke a conflict situation. Or, even worse, shoot down a civilian passenger plane somewhere on the approach to Lebanese Tripoli.
It is clear that Damascus is extremely dissatisfied with such a “toothless” position of Moscow and is ready to attract Tehran, which certainly will not stand on ceremony with Israeli planes. Moreover, the Iranian army is armed with the Russian S-300PMU-1 complexes, which will be used to cover military facilities.
For Russia, the broader involvement of any third party, even if it is a friendly Iran, is also of purely image importance, because it is considered that it is Moscow that is the main guarantor of stability and future peace in Syria. Strengthening the role of Tehran will lead to the loss of such positions. Russian-Israeli relations will also be seriously affected, as Tel Aviv will consider that any attack by the Iranian military in Syria has been agreed with Moscow, which, in fact, is not so easy to “hold back” Tehran.
There is another, not voiced plan of Moscow, which in fact could authorize such a deal between Damascus and Tehran, and did not hinder the possibility of deploying an Iranian naval base in Lattakia. The allegations that the proximity of this city on the Mediterranean coast to Tartus, where the Russian naval base is located, and to Hamim, where the main forces of the Russian Aerospace Forces are stationed, could put them at risk from the United States and Israel are not entirely correct.
From Latakia to Tartus – 72 kilometers in a straight line, to Hmeimim – 24 kilometers, which eliminates the “accident” of missiles, especially since Russian objects are protected by their own air defense systems (S-400 air defense missile system, Pantsir-S1 air defense missile system and Tunguska ).
It is likely that such a “concession” from Moscow on the deployment of the Iranian naval base in Syria is also connected with the resumption of plans to connect the railways of Iran, Iraq and Syria into a single whole. This strategic project was launched before the onset of the Syrian crisis in 2011 and was suspended for obvious reasons. It was assumed that in this way Iraq and Iran would gain access to the Mediterranean Sea through the Syrian ports, and the railway itself would in the future continue to the east – up to China. Syria even managed to implement the project at 97 percent, but during the fighting a significant part of the road was destroyed. In Iraq, only a couple of kilometers of railway track are missing, while in Iran they operate up to the Iraqi border near the city of Basra.
Russia through such a railway route can also get an opportunity for land access via Syria to the Mediterranean Sea – through the Iranian sea terminals in the Caspian Sea. Here we see not only the opportunity to supply our military bases in Syria, but also to establish a more profitable trade flow to the entire Middle East.
By a strange coincidence, these two news – the Iranian base in Latakia and the railway between Syria and Iran, appeared almost simultaneously. Maybe everything is logical?