ANALYSIS: Why Russia is Lying About Israel’s Role in Downing of its Spy Plane
There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye in the current Israel-Russia diplomatic crisis over Syria
On Tuesday, a cartoon in Israel’s leading newspaper Yediot Acharonot showed Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad standing next to a Russian officer as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin drives a giant truck with the S-300 anti-aircraft missile shield towards the ruthless Syrian dictator.
“I can’t wait to see what I will receive after we will down another (Russian) airplane,” Assad tells the Russian officer.
The cartoon illustrates the atmosphere in Israel where virtual everybody condemns Putin for betraying the Jewish State after the downing of an Ilyushin IL-20 reconnaissance airplane with a Russian-made S-200 surface to air missile by Assad’s army.
On Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry published a what it claimed was a factual reconstruction of the events on September 17th which led to the downing of the IL-20 aircraft and the death of 15 Russian servicemen.
The Russian Defense Ministry rejected the findings of the Israeli military relating to the incident and insisted that one of the four IAF F-16I warplanes which attacked an Iranian missile facility in the northwestern province Latakia in Syria minutes before the Russian plane disappeared from radar had used the IL-20 as a shield against the incoming S-200 rocket.
The Russians also insisted that an Israeli air force commander had informed the Russian military just one minute before the imminent strike on the Iranian facility in Latakia.
Putin’s Defense Ministry said the IAF’ actions on Sept. 17th constituted a clear breach of existing agreements between Israel and Russia which were meant to prevent clashes between the two countries in Syria.
The Russians furthermore claimed the IAF commander had lied about the location of the Israeli airstrike when he announced the assault would take place in northern Syria.
The pilot of the IL-20 subsequently received an order to leave his mission area and to return to the Russian operated Khmeimim base in northwest Syria after which the plane suddenly disappeared from the radar.
The Russians also claimed the IAF warplanes stayed for another fifty minutes in the airspace off-coast in Syria where they were patrolling the skies while one of the F-16’s suddenly approached the IL-20, which was preparing to land at Khmeimim, and by doing so ducked an incoming S-200 missile.
As has happened before the Russians are lying through their teeth.
First of all, a plane cannot ‘hide’ behind another aircraft as was pointed out by former IAF pilot and Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin who last week called the Russian claims “unprofessional” and meant to “clear the Syrians of guilt.”
Yadlin also revealed that the four IAF F-16’s were already back in Israeli airspace when the Syrian army began to launch S-200 missiles “randomly” as the IDF called it.
On Sunday, Israeli journalist Avi Sharf published a timetable of the incident which led to the downing of the Russian aircraft and fired off a tweet which said the Syrians started to launch some twenty missiles ten minutes after the IAF jets struck their target in Latakia which is in northwest Syria.
“Instead of moving to safety and prohibiting the launch of the S-200 missiles, the Russian plane flew into the danger zone where it was downed at 22.03 P.M.,” Sharf tweeted.
Further proof of Russian lies about the IAF actions and the loss of their IL-20 aircraft came from the Russian Defense Ministry itself.
On Sunday, the ministry claimed the plane was conducting a special survey mission in the Idlib de-escalation zone which is in northern Syria close to the Turkish border.
However, on September 17th the same Russian ministry said “connection with the IL-20 has been lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane over the Mediterranean Sea 35 kilometers from the Syrian coast.
The Russian plane was furthermore flying at a much higher altitude than the Israeli F-16’s which were flying at very low altitude to avoid being hit by the S-200 missiles which are known to be ineffective against low flying aircraft.
Then there’s the Russian claim the Israelis gave an advance warning only one minute before the actual strike.
The IAF denies that this is what happens and says that the advance warning was delivered much earlier and according to the disengagement agreement with Russia.
The Russians are now quiet about the fact that their military in Syria misread the unfolding battle and initially reported that a French frigate was involved in the attack against the Iranian missile facility in Latakia.
They also are silent about the fact that they apparently forgot to provide the Syrians with electronic signals which are able to identify any plane as Russian.
The Russian military is furthermore trying to hide the fact that Russian officers supervise the use of Russian-made anti-aircraft batteries in Syria and had the ability to identify their own IL-20 plane before it was shot down.
This all begs the question of why the Russian government initiated this crisis and is constantly lying about what happened on September 17, 2018.
As was reported by Israel Today the behavior of the Kremlin suggests the Russians were just waiting for an excuse to arm Syria with the S-300 state-of-the-art anti-aircraft missile shield.
The Russian government tried to deliver the same system to Assad in April but backtracked after an outcry by Israel and other countries involved in the Syrian war.
Delivery of the S-300 would change the overall situation on the battlefield in Syria although the IDF reportedly has the ability to destroy the system and has already announced it will continue its strikes against Iran in Syria.
Another reason for putting the blame on Israel for the downing of the IL-20 is Putin’s prestige in the domestic arena and abroad.
Commentators in Russia have pointed out that the regime of the Russian strongman has a habit of blaming others for things that went awfully wrong and never admits the failures of his own military.
The third reason for Russia’s behavior is the situation in Syria and the Middle East in general.
Putin wants to keep his strategic foothold in the region and also wants to ensure that the U.S. and Israel won’t frustrate his achievements in Syria by weakening Hezbollah and other Iranian clients in the war-torn country.