Israel's Ex-air Force Chief: Military Capability Won't Get Iran Out of Syria, Only Russia Can Do It

'There's a very great chance that the Russians will do an about-face on us,' Amir Eshel says amid visit by Putin's Syria envoy as tensions simmer

Syrian air defense batteries responding to what state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus, January 21, 2019.

Former Israel Air Force Chief Amir Eshel said on Monday that despite Israel’s great military strength, “it’s not military capability that is going to get the Iranians out of Syria.”

“There is no military capability of getting them out of Syria. The only one who can get Iran out of Syria is Russia,” Eshel said.

However, he warned that “there’s a very great chance that the Russians will do an about-face on us.”

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Eshel, who serves as the air force chief until 2017, spoke as a member of a panel at the National Security Research Institute and said he doesn’t believe Israel is on the verge of any war, but added: “I think that we must not delude ourselves, one could develop and we saw this with the shooting of the missile at the Hermon.”

Eshel was referencing an incident earlier this month in which projectiles were fired at the northern Golan Heights from Syria in broad daylight. The missiles were fired after Syrian state media said Syrian air defenses thwarted an Israeli airstrike on an airport in southeast Damascus.

Missile interception caught on skier's cameraHaaretz / YouTube

Eshel went on to add that “the only alternative to the current situation is the virtually impossible option that the Americans will act on the global field, but I don’t think that will happen. I think that the Syrians also don’t want the Iranian powder keg in their backyard.”

Against the backdrop of the tensions in the north, Russia's special representative for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, and Moscow's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, have arrived for a visit and plan to meet on Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They met on Monday with senior officials at the Foreign Ministry. Their visit follows a rise in tensions last week in bilateral ties after air force raids in Syria. Moscow has sent Israel a warning against continued Israeli attacks in Syria.

Ex-Israel Air Force chief Amir Eshel.
\ Ilan Assayag

"The practice of arbitrary strikes on the territory of a sovereign state, in this case, we are talking about Syria, should be ruled out," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, in answer to a question from Russian news agency TASS about recent Israeli air strikes on Syria.

She said such strikes added to tensions in the region, which she said was not in the long-term interests of any country there, including Israel.

The Syrian Center for Human Rights said last week at least 12 members of the Iranian Revolution Guards were killed in the Israeli attacks on Syria, in addition to six Syrian military and militiamen and three foreigners.