IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot (left) with Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Army General Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov, September 21, 2015. .
(photo credit: IDF)
The IDF and Russian military will set up a joint working group to coordinate their Syria-related activities in the aerial, naval, and electromagnetic arenas, a senior defense source said Monday. The source spoke soon after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot returned from a one-day visit to Moscow, following intensive meetings on Russia’s newly expanded military role in Syria.
According to foreign reports, the Israel Air Force has launched multiple air strikes in recent years to intercept Iranian and Syrian weapons that were on the way to Hezbollah storage facilities in Lebanon.
Israel has shared concerns with Russia that it’s interceptions could be compromised if military coordination is not put into place soon.
In Russia, Eisenkot met with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov – the first time chiefs of staff from Russia and Israel held a direct meeting in Moscow. Eisenkot also participated in part of the meeting held between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Afterward, the two sides agreed to set up a joint working group led by the deputy chiefs of staff from each country. The first meeting will occur in two weeks, and the location will be decided in the coming days.
“It will coordinate air, naval, and the electromagnetic arenas,” the source said. The full composition of the working group has not yet been determined, he added.
“Everything will be raised there. The meetings in Russia were held in a good atmosphere,” the senior source said.
On September 10, a senior defense source said that an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp force, comprised of hundreds of soldiers, recently entered Syria to assist the embattled Assad regime. In a coordinated Iranian-Russian maneuver, Russian logistics military forces began to arrive to Syria’s coastal region to set up a base for Russian fighter jets and combat helicopters.
Tehran dispatched its force “in light of Assad’s” ongoing distress, the source stated, adding that the deployment is part of a wider Russian-Iranian coordinated effort to prevent what remains of the Assad regime from collapsing.
According to Israeli assessments, the Assad regime currently controls 25 to 30 percent of Syria, consisting of Damascus and the Syrian coastline, where the regime’s minority Alawite support base is centered.
Throughout September, Russian military forces have been entering Syria to set up air strike capabilities aimed at protecting the Assad regime.
“I can’t see the Russian presence as changing the balance of power. It will apparently prolong the fighting. ISIS will never negotiate,” the source said. “Combat will continue in the coming year, along with the human tragedy in Syria.”
“The Russian interest is to save the regime, and its goal is to take part in combat against ISIS,” he said.
Islamic State is making gains in Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, and is now better positioned to mount an assault on Damascus, according to the source.