This has been a good few days for the news industry. Across America eyes and ears have been riveted to the news coming out of New York and Washington, D.C.
The United Nations General Assembly, where world leaders speak in public and meet in private, and the dueling testimonies of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford have dominated the news cycle.
But sometimes we need to pay attention to smaller news items. Sometimes we need to pay attention to news items that are intentionally constructed to take place during times when they will be buried by bigger stories.
One item of enormous import is that Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council met his Iranian counterpart, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. This little item is of enormous importance.
News of their meeting was reported by Tasnim, an official Iranian media outlet. They met in Tehran, on Thursday. And they came to some very important conclusions and made some very threatening announcements.
According to the news report, Ali Shamkhani declared that: "The Zionist regime has been trying to establish a crisis in Syria and has taken steps to directly support terrorist groups and target the Syrian army and forces who are confronting terrorism ... And if it continues, it will face reactions that will cause regret."
Those are serious threats, way beyond normal saber rattling and the threatening rhetoric that Iran consistently spews against Israel. These comments gave a context. They related to very specific Israeli actions. They were pronounced in the presence of, and specifically for, the Russians who blame Israel for the accidental downing of one of their reconnaissance planes by Syria — an accident that killed fifteen Russian personnel.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the weapon that the Syrians used to down the plane was Russian-made and supplied to Syria as a defense against Israel. The technology was old and dated, it was an S-200 anti-aircraft missile system, but it was still capable of inflicting direct damage. It was a case of Mid-East friendly fire.
One day earlier, on Wednesday, Syria’s Deputy Defense Minister Faisal Mekdad is quoted as saying: “Israel is used to carrying out many attacks using all sorts of excuses, now Israel will think twice before attacking. The S-300 missiles that Russia intends to supply us with in the next two weeks will be used for defense only. Syria will continue to defend itself as it has done thus far.”
The S-300 is a weapon that is far superior to the S-200.
The arrival of this new weapons system, this gift from Russia to Syria, will most assuredly complicate Israeli military operations in Syria and Lebanon. Israel knows that and Russia knows that. And because Russia is gifting Syria with the S-300s, Russian President Putin and Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu had an impromptu phone conversation earlier this week during which Netanyahu urged Putin not to deliver these weapons.
It was not their first conversation about the S-300. For several years Moscow and Jerusalem have been in talks about Russia fulfilling — or not fulfilling — their commitment not to Syria, but to Iran and delivering the S-300 to them. And more than once Netanyahu has successfully convinced Putin not to upgrade Syria's defenses with the S-300.
This time around, after the downing of the Russian plane, it is unlikely that Netanyahu will be successful in his appeal.
The situation in the Middle East does not bode well. The downing of the Russian plane, the delivery of Russian S-300 to Syria, the increased diplomatic rhetoric and activity between Iranians and Syrians all lead to a palpable increase in tensions in the region.
The Middle East is an explosive region during the best of times. Given recent events, the combustion level has risen precipitously. It is certainly on par with the goings-on at the UN and the Supreme Court nomination.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.
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