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DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 16, 2016, 9:14 AM (IDT)
( Saudi F-15 bomers )
The highly-advanced S-400 air defense missiles will also eventually be evacuated from Syria, said high-ranking officials in Moscow on Wednesday, March 17, according to an exclusive DEBKAfile
report. But their presence for now is crucial in view of the continuing Saudi buildup of warplanes in Turkey, close to the Syrian border.
Our military sources disclose that the initial Saudi deployment of four warplanes to the Turkish air base of Incirlik earlier this month, has been expanded to sixteen, while Saudi officials declare that Riyadh and Ankara are preparing to intervene jointly in the Syrian conflict.
According to our sources, Turkish armored and infantry troops have already crossed the border and set up positions in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, just a few hundred meters inside the border.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov referred Sunday, March 14, to evidence of “a creeping expansion by Turkey in the sovereign nation of Syria.”
This was taken as a warning that Moscow would not tolerate any further Turkish encroachments in Syria, any more than it would accept Saudi air force intrusions of Syrian air space.
The Russians infer from Turkish military movements that Ankara aims to establish enclaves inside Syria as no-fly or security zones, which Moscow has consistently opposed. The presence of the top-grade S-400 anti-air missiles in Syria is meant to obstruct this plan and discourage Turkish and Saudi aerial flights over Syria.
At the same time, the presence of the S-400 missiles close by is a worry for the Israeli Air force. The batteries, currently positioned at the Latakia base, would cover a broad stretch of air space over northern and central Israel if they were moved further south.
A word of reassurance on this score was understood to have come from Russian military sources Wednesday. They said that the S-400 would be removed eventually, leaving behind only the Pantsir-S1 anti-air missile systems, which have never posed a challenge to the Israeli air force in the last decade.
DEBKAfile’s military sources also confirm that Putin has so far kept his promise to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to withhold advanced S-400 and S-300 air defense missiles from Iran, by executing a series of delays.
On Feb. 17, Iranian military officials announced a ceremony the next day at the Caspian port of Astrakhan for the handover of the first batch of S-300s. The ceremony never took place.
This week, Russian arms industry sources announced that the missiles would be not be delivered to Iran before August or September – another delay, which is unlikely to be the last.
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