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‘Messages’ Behind Israel’s Bombing of Latakia Port




The bombing of the port of Latakia at dawn on Tuesday carried most messages since the start of the Israeli raids in Syria at the end of 2013, months after the “chemical deal” between Washington and Moscow. Why?
1 - Latakia port: The attack targeted the most important Syrian port, kilometers away from the Russian Hmeimim military base, which hosts the advanced S-300 and S-400 missile systems. This is an indication of the Russian consent with the Israeli raids, or at least, its non-objection to them.
2 - Russian anger: Moscow had previously expressed to Damascus its “anger” at the Syrian government’s decision in February 2019 to give the Latakia port management to Iran after terminating a contract with an international company. Damascus tried to please Moscow by granting it concessions in the nearby port of Tartus as part of a “balance game between the two allies”, but the Russian implicit anger persisted.
3 - The “September knot”: In September 2018, the Syrian air defenses mistakenly shot down a Russian military plane while it was responding to Israeli raids. The incident led to the killing of 15 Russian soldiers, causing tension between Moscow and Israel, and requiring visits from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the crisis and return to operating the military “coordination mechanism” between the two sides in Syria. However, Israel remained cautious when targeting the vicinity of the two Russian bases in Latakia and Tartus to avoid any Russian casualties.
4- Putin - Bennett: Since Naftali Bennett assumed the premiership in June, Russia has sought to “remind” Israel of its presence in Syria, by providing detailed data on the Syrian response to the raids and Damascus’ use of Russian anti-missile shields, with warnings to Tel Aviv not to target Russian or Syrian government interests. However, according to Israeli leaks, Bennett obtained from Putin, during their meeting in Sochi on October 22, “more than what Netanyahu had.” Military coordination and the “red line” between Tel Aviv and the Hmeimim base were restored. In fact, the first raid after the meeting saw the use of surface-to-surface missiles targeting the outskirts of Damascus.
5- “Broadness and focus”: Since the meeting between Putin and Bennett, the circle of raids has expanded. “Mysterious bombing” was repeated on “Iranian sites” in eastern Syria, while Israel targeted several times the outskirts of Damascus and central Syria, on October 30 and November 3, 8 and 24, hitting “Iranian weapons and ammunition depots,” according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
6- “Inhuman”: The special envoy of the Russian President to Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, said during his participation in a forum in Damascus in mid-November: “As for the issue raised regarding the illegal bombings of Syrian territory by Israel: we strongly oppose these inhuman actions and call for contacts at all levels with the Israeli side on the need to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity of Syria and stop these bombings.”
He continued: “In this context, a military response would be counterproductive, because no one needs a war on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.”
7- “Resistance to Israel”: Lavrentyev’s position is completely different from that of Tehran. The Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said during his meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad in Tehran on Tuesday: “The resistance is the only way to eradicate this cancerous tumor from the region,” as reported by IRNA.
8 - Two approaches and a theater: Faced with the different approaches of Moscow and Tehran on government control and the relationship with Tel Aviv, Russia sought to persuade Iran to remove its organizations from the T-4 base in the center of the country, which was exposed to several Israeli raids.
On the other hand, US officials accused Iran of bombing the US base of al-Tanf in southeastern Syria, in “retaliation” for the Israeli attacks. This angered Moscow, which establishes major understandings with Washington, including in Syria.
9 - Putin-Biden: Before the Putin-Bennett meeting at the end of October, organizations affiliated with Tehran targeted Al-Tanf base, as part of their “messages” to Sochi, the meeting place. It is not a coincidence for the recent Israeli bombing of an “Iranian shipment” in Latakia, near Hmeimim, to come hours before the summit of the Russian and American presidents, who have good relations with Israel and “guarantee its security.”
10 - The nuclear file and normalization: The raids cannot be taken out of the context of regional and international developments, especially with regard to the deadlock facing the nuclear talks in Vienna and Israeli and American warnings of “other options.” In addition, some are betting that “normalization” with Damascus will “curb the Iranian military presence” in Syria... even if it was the result of an understanding between Moscow, Damascus and Tehran, which Meqdad visited on Tuesday.

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