A looming threat by Russia to deliver missiles to Syria will escalate tensions between Syria and Israel — and possibly trigger a confrontation between Russia and the United States, a former top Air Force intelligence officer says.
Retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV that the possible standoff could echo the tension that surfaced during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, which began with a surprise Arab attack on Israel.
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"If you remember the 1973 war, we started to resupply Israel. The Russians put all of their forces on alert. They were going to intervene in the Middle East, we were going to intervene in the Middle East, and this was going to spiral out of control," Francona said.
"And this has the capability of leading to that confrontation because the Russians are backing the Syrians and if we declare a no-fly zone, they may feel that they have to intervene on behalf of the Syrians. We're approaching a very critical time in this right now."
The new threat stems from a cache of missiles Syria ordered from Russia years ago. They have yet to be delivered because of the ongoing civil war between forces loyal to the Syrian Ba'ath Party government and protestors trying to topple it.
"The Russians now are threatening to deliver the missiles. And as we get closer to a possible no-fly zone, you're going to see Syria pressuring the Russians to go ahead and deliver those systems that they paid for," Francona said.
"It looks like the earliest they can get them there would be this fall. But if these missiles are delivered, this is a game changer."
The reason being, he said, because while Syrians have a lot of military air power, their systems are old.
"It really hasn’t been upgraded in decades . . . The Russians have always built really great air defense stuff and this is about as good as it gets and if they get these into Syria, it will put the northern half of Israel at risk."
Francona said Secretary of State John Kerry is now trying to get all sides together to diffuse the situation.
"Hopefully, something will come out of that," he said. "I don’t hold much hope after that, but this has the potential to become, once again . . . the superpower confrontations of decades ago."
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