Russian Federation backtracks on Syrian missile sale after Netanyahu visit

Amir Cohen  Reuters

Vladimir Kozhin said on Friday that Russian Federation was neither supplying S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria nor negotiating a potential delivery to Damascus.

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres earlier called for an immediate halt to "all hostile acts" to avoid "a new conflagration" in the Middle East.

A hard-line Iranian cleric threatened Iran would retaliate if Israel "does anything foolish".

It could spread across Syria and Lebanon.

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, Israel has carried out more than 100 air strikes on Syrian soil, mainly to prevent Iran from sending advanced weaponry via Syria's air bases to Hezbollah.

Before leaving, Zarif published a government statement on his Twitter page, slamming Trump's "extremist administration" for abandoning "an accord recognised as a victory of diplomacy by the global community".

One thing the Iranians would be smart to consider is the growing friendship between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which is largely based on the enemy they share in Iran. Moscow has also called Iran a partner in the war on terror against jihadists in Syria and elsewhere. The Iranians must deal with the consequences of the American withdrawal and the pressure that will be exerted on them. On May 8 former Secretary of State John Kerry wrote that Trump's announcement "puts Israel at greater risk, empowers Iran's hardliners and reduces our global leverage to address Tehran's misbehavior". Israel sees this as a fundamental threat. And just a few days ago, Israel claimed it struck at missiles that were being readied to be launched.

The problem for Tehran is that it can not risk a major conflict with Israel or risk losing all the work it has put into propping up the Syrian regime. The battle to decide the fate of the Assad regime, after all, is largely over.

Israel's defence minister has called on President Bashar Assad to "get rid" of Iranian forces in Syria, warning their continued presence would only cause problems.

The rising tension in Syria came just as the U.S. chose to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and impose new sanctions, adding to the pressure on Tehran. The more Iran builds and invests in Syria, the more it stands to lose. It would not be out of the question for the Saudis to join in responding to an Iranian attack on Israel, especially if Hezbollah is involved.

Israel hit back with dozens of airstrikes that it said hit "almost all" Iranian military infrastructure in Syria.

In the first comments by Iran since Thursday's wave of strikes, the Foreign Ministry condemned the "blatant violation of Syria's sovereignty", Press TV reported. And Tehran does have ambitions in Syria that Moscow does not share.

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