The lies of Russia’s report on Israeli culpability for plane fiasco
رون بن ياشيا من يديعوت احرونوت: كاذيب التقرير الروسي حول مسؤولية إسرائيل عن اسقاط الطائرة الروسية في سوريا
Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/September 23/18
Op-ed: The Russian Defense Ministry has now heaped full blame on Israel for the fact that Syria downed a Russian spy plane while trying to repel an IAF attack. A closer analysis of the report reveals a string of lies and half-truths to cover up for the incompetence and blunders made by Russian and Syrian operators of their own air defenses.
The most striking thing about the report produced by the Russian Defense Ministry about Syria’s downing of the Russian spy plane in Latakia last week which has been blamed on Israel is the fact that it ignores the findings of the investigation conducted in Israel that were presented by the IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin and Israeli intelligence officials who accompanied him to Moscow in a bid to lower the ensuing tension.
Israel, in an almost unprecedented move, sent its IAF commander with authorized and detailed documentation to Moscow which was intended not only to shed light on what transpired, but also on the events leading up to it.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov (Photo: RT)
Norkin met in Moscow with senior Russian officials, including his Russian counterpart and yet the Russian report that was published on Sunday which stuck by its original claim that Israel bore sole responsibility for the incident made no mention of a single Israeli claim. The report didn’t even try to refute Israel’s claims or to make counterclaims against the information the Russians had been provided just days earlier. Even more surprising is that the Russian Defense Ministry simply repeated, word for word, with no change whatsoever, the version of events that were published mere hours after the incident.
The report seems as though absolutely no attempt to clarify matters was made by the Israeli side. There is not even a mention of Norkin. Apart from blaming Israel, the report, which promised a minute-by-minute evaluation, contains almost no new facts on the matter. Moreover, there are all kinds of additional claims that are intended to demonstrate just how ungrateful Israel apparently is to the charitable Russians who are trying to protect it and are only repaid in bad faith. rom reading the report by the Defense Ministry which was initiated by Russian media which marches to the Kremlin’s beat, it is not difficult to discern that its findings are intended, more or less, to achieve several goals. It is worth examining them one by one.
Firstly, it is intended to fabricate excuses to the Russian public about the failures of its forces deployed in Syria on the night of the incident. These failures and shortfalls in the overall aerial situation are what contributed to the plane being shot down no less that the Syrian air defenses who pulled the trigger and launched and SAS missile at the Ilyushin Il-20.
The Defense Ministry did not include in its report any warning or threat of retaliation and this is a good sign. In this story the Russian Defense Ministry is the “baddy” which is seeking a get out of jail free card at Israel’s expense in Syria. Putin is seeking to create an image in which he is the good cop who wants to safeguard good relations with Israel and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But the Defense Ministry knows that it can’t go too far and make threats against Israel upon which it is unable to deliver.
The proof that the Russian officers in the Khmeimim Air Base did not read the battle correctly is the fact that the first message they sent to the Defense Ministry in Moscow is that they registered missile launches from French frigate in Mediterranean at the Syrian army targets in Latakia. They also falsely reported that certain targets, for instance power plant in Latakia, were hit. Another blunder was that the Russians did not provide its Syrian allies with the electronic signals which identifies their planes as Russian.
The Russian officers who operate jointly with the Syrian air defenses failed to properly supervise the anti-aircraft fire and the radar screens while the Syrian operators pressed the launch button. The Russian officers were there and they can surely recognize Russian planes but for a reason that is not clear, a mistake was made or someone failed in their professional responsibility. The claim that Israeli jets used the Russian plane as a shield against the Syrian air defense systems is merely a ploy to cover up this failure.
Another reason for the report can be attributed to the power struggles being waged between various security officials in the Russian Defense Ministry and Putin’s offices. This incident is an opportunity for Defense Ministry officials, a large number of whom identify with the Russian regime, to lash out at Israel in order to make it easier for Russian industries to supply weapons to its allies in the Middle East. But the main thing, as mentioned, is Russian public opinion and ensuring that no encouragement is given to the opposition elements to the Kremlin.
The second reason for the unfounded accusations against Israel is to solicit new compromises from the country regarding the situation in Syria. It can be assumed that the Russians will try to use the crisis against Israel to limit the freedom over Syria’s skies which it has been granted by Moscow through new agreements. This will then be presented as an achievement to the regime in Damascus and Tehran who will then “owe” them.
How believable is the report by the Russians? What is clear it that the Defense Ministry has not pointed out the simple fact that the Syrian air defenses were the ones that shot the plane down. It was not Israel. The scathing report attempts to create the impression that the State of Israel is exclusively responsible for bringing the plane down which is why it does not mention this simple truth and why it doesn’t mention the responsibility of Hezbollah and Iran for this tragic situation who themselves have tried to use the Russian military presence as a shield against Israeli attacks.
This string of facts which are ignored in the report cast a significant doubt on its validity, but also on the fact that the Kremlin does not want to overstep the mark with Israel. This is also a positive thing for us. While they want to squeeze out of this crisis as much as they can, the Russians will not go too far in directly confronting Israel.
Unpacking the Russian claims
The first claim: The Israelis gave less than a minute’s notice before the attack on Latakia and did not provide the location of their planes or the list of targets.
The recording that was brought to Russia by Norkin proves that a warning was delivered to the Russian coordination room in the Khmeimim Air Base located south of Latakia. It proves that a lot more than one minute was given before the strike. Israel was not obligated to provide the location of its planes or the list of targets because such information would have exposed the fighter jets to danger and revealed the Israeli modus operandi to the Russians and the Syrians. It may have enabled the Syrians to intercept the rockets fired by the Israelis at the weapons depots.
Russian findings (Photo: RT)