Moscow Mediating Between Israel and Iran After S-300 Delivery, Report Says

London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reported that Russia is aiming to 'reduce tensions and prevent friction' in Syria by opening channels of communication

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, in Tehran, Iran, September 7, 2018.

Russia has reportedly been trying to open communication channels between Israel and Iran "in order to reduce tensions and prevent friction" in Syria after the delivery of the S-300 missile systems, London-based Arabic language newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reported Saturday.

According to the Saudi-owned paper, a "knowledgeable" Russian source gave this information, and did not rule out Moscow playing the "role of mediator."

Moscow said on Tuesday that it had delivered the S-300s, a decision it took after accusing Israel of indirect responsibility for the downing of a Russian spy plane by Syrian forces as they fired on attacking Israeli jets last month.

>> Israel faces a much bigger challenge in Syria than S-300 missiles

Damascus and its big-power backer describe the advanced addition to Syria's arsenal as a major deterrent. Israel and Washington have both voiced misgivings about the S-300 handover.

The S-300 system, and the more advanced S-400, have been deployed in Syria since 2016. So far, the Russian army has used them to protect its aircraft and Russian assets in Syria. But now, Russia’s decision to supply the system means it will be handed over to the Assad regime.

Israel says its air raids on Syria are needed to foil deployments and arms transfers by Iran or Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas, allies of Damascus.

Israel's regional cooperation minister, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, said that Russia had previously stationed its own S-300 in Syria, so the system's capabilities had long been factored into Israeli planning. Syria's military would require "a few months" to get its S-300 operational, he said.

Israel said on September 4 it had carried out more than 200 air strikes in Syria in the previous two years - an average rate of twice a week - with Russia largely turning a blind eye. There have been no reports of such missions since the Russian plane's downing on September 17, however.