By Finian Cunningham*
Syria is ready to deploy the fearsome S-300 air-defence system supplied by its Russian ally. The anti-aircraft surface-to-air missiles will give Syria control over its territory and the capability to shoot down any intrusive warplane or missile. NATO warplanes beware!
The fatal shoot-down of a Russian fighter jet by a Turkish F-16 two weeks ago has given urgency to installing the air-defence system. It is as much in Russia’s interest as it is in Syria’s to have air cover – and the S-300, and its newer generation, the S-400, are reckoned to be the best technology in the world for that job.
“It’s a top-of-the range weapon”, says the British defence publication, IHS Jane’s, probably surpassing the American Patriot missile system. The Russian-made S-300 can take out any modern fighter plane or missile, including Cruise missiles, at a range of up 150 kilometres and an altitude of 27 kilometres.
According to a senior officer at the Syria-Russia joint military operations room in Damascus, the mobile S-300 is ready for deployment at various locations across the country.
Translated from Arabic language Alrai Media (thanks to the reliable Fort Russ Russian news site), the senior Syrian officer at the operations room is quoted as saying: “Soon Syria will announce that any country using the airspace without coordinating with Damascus will be viewed as hostile and [we] will shoot the jet down without warning. Those willing to fight terrorism and coordinate with the military leadership will be granted safe corridors.”
This may seem like a dangerous escalation. American fighter jets have been bombing Syrian territory since September 2014, having carried out thousands of air strikes allegedly against the Islamic State (IS) terror group (also known by its Arabic name Daesh).
Since the Paris terror attacks last month, France has stepped up its air strikes in Syria too. In the past week, Britain and Germany parliaments have voted for their air forces to join the other NATO members in aerial operations. The US-led bombing coalition in Syria also includes Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Russia is the only country whose military aircraft are legally deployed in Syria because Moscow has the full consent of the Syrian government. All the others do not have consent from Damascus and simply invited themselves.
So we have at least seven foreign powers deploying their warplanes to bomb Syrian territory – all in violation of international law.
It is irrelevant whether the US-led alliance claims to be fighting terrorists, or whether they claim it is in “self-defence” as France, Britain and Germany are. The Germany justice minister Heiko Maas, speaking after the Bundestag voted for military action this week, claimed that the United Nations Security Council resolution passed last month in the wake of the Paris attacks makes the German intervention legal. That UNSC resolution does not specifically sanction military action.
In any case, the ultimate legal criterion is the position of the Syrian state authorities. Western governments and their media have done everything to discredit, demonise and delegitimise the Syrian government. That’s part of the US-led criminal enterprise for regime change in Syria. But the fact remains, Syria is a sovereign state fully entitled the legal rights of all other UN members.
If the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad – which is the internationally recognised governing authority of Syria and retains its seat at the UN – does not consent to foreign military intervention, then that intervention is illegal, as Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly pointed out.
Syria, with the S-300 missile system supplied by its Russian ally, now has the technical means to defend its borders and airspace from all intruders. It also has the legal right to defend the inviolability of its territory. After all, US President Barack Obama invoked this right with regard to Turkey after the shoot-down of the Russian Su-24. Obama said Turkey had “every right to protect its skies” (even though the evidence shows that the Russian fighter jet did not breach Turkish territory).
In other words: what’s good for Turkey is good for Syria, as for any other nation.
Now, some might say it is a reckless move for Syria to train its skies with the powerful S-300. If a US, French, British or German warplane is shot down then that may ignite a full-on war with the American NATO military alliance. Russia would inevitably be dragged into the fight, which could slide into a world war between nuclear powers.
But hold on a minute. That logic amounts to the US and its allies using such fear as a weapon to disarm others and to prevent sovereign states from exercising their rights.
Such a dynamic is a blank cheque for powers to bully and oppress others which the U.S. has been doing for decades.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin has said time and again, the issue is one abiding by international law. Without respect for international law then the world resorts to the law of the jungle and barbarism, as Putin said in his recent state of the nation speech.
What we have seen in recent years since the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001-2003 is the wholesale erosion of sovereignty. This has involved the overt deployment of military force and the covert use of “asymmetric war”, says American political analyst Randy Martin (who writes at crookedbough.com).
“The use of proxy military force by the US and its NATO allies has been seen in regime-change operations in Libya, Syria and Ukraine, combined with media propaganda campaigns and economic sanctions,” says Martin. “A key strategy here by the Washington-led powers is to erode sovereign rights of designated enemy states.”
The deployment of so-called Islamist terror groups to destabilise Syria as with neo-Nazi paramilitaries in Ukraine is all part of the West’s asymmetric warfare.
For whatever reason, the US bombing coalition is claiming that it is combating the IS jihadists in Syria. However, the evidence shows that Western “combat” efforts in Syria are very late in coming and not very effective, indicating a lack of commitment to genuinely defeat the terror network.
There is also reason to believe that the NATO rush to bomb IS oil smuggling routes in Syria is really motivated by a need to cover up the tracks of Western collusion with the terror groups. The American CIA and British MI6, along with Turk military intelligence, have been implicated in running the terror “rat lines”. Russian intelligence is lifting the lid on this sordid racket.
Western air strikes without the approval of the Syrian government are not only illegal, they lack credibility in their stated aim.
But either way, the imperative here is that Syria re-establishes its sovereignty and the principles of international law. If Syria is lost, then Western state sponsored banditry and terrorism will only escalate. Russia is already being targeted by the West’s asymmetric warfare, as is Iran and China.
Therefore, a line has to be drawn. And with Russia’s military support, Syria has the power to do just that. From now on, NATO warplanes violating Syrian territory should be put on notice. Keep out or get shot down.
*The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of MINA