Were Iran to attack Israel, Moscow would stand by the Jewish state’s side, a Russian official said this week, days after an Iranian-made drone infiltrated Israel from Syria and was shot down by the IDF.
“In the case of aggression against Israel, not only will the United States stand by Israel’s side — Russia, too, will be on Israel’s side,” Russian Deputy Ambassador to Israel Leonid Frolov said. “Many of our countrymen live here in Israel, and Israel in general is a friendly nation, and therefore we won’t allow any aggression against Israel.”
Still, in a wide-ranging interview conducted at the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv on Monday, Frolov cast doubt on Israel’s assertion that Iran was behind the drone incursion and suggested Israeli intelligence agencies establish contacts with its Syrian counterparts.
He also predicted that Israelis would not be happy about the forthcoming American peace plan, and dismissed the outrage against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnation of Israel as a European colonial project with no connection to Judaism.
“We certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself, and the actions of Israeli pilots were entirely correct,” he said of Saturday’s flareup in the north, during which an Israeli fighter jet was shot down by a Syrian anti-aircraft battery and two pilots were injured.
“We certainly regret that in this incident two Israeli pilots were injured,” Frolov said. “On behalf of the Russian embassy I am wishing a speedy recovery to the wounded pilots.
On Saturday morning, an Israeli Apache helicopter shot down the unmanned aerial vehicle a minute and a half after it had entered Israeli airspace. In retaliation for the infiltration, the Israeli Air Force attacked several targets in Syria, severely damaging the regime’s air defense systems.
Russia is a staunch ally of both Iran and Syria, assisting both countries in their efforts to help the Syrian regime fend off rebels trying to bring down President Bashar Assad in a bloody seven-year civil war.
“Syria is a sovereign country and the Syrian people, too, have the right to self-defense,” Frolov said.
Israel has repeatedly vowed to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran’s efforts to entrench itself militarily in Syria. Jerusalem, which has reportedly attacked Iranian targets in Syria, and Moscow have established a so-called deconfliction mechanism to avoid clashes in the skies of the war-torn country.
Israel’s demand that Iran not be allowed to establish a strong military presence in Syria is “absolutely legitimate,” Frolov said.
Moscow agrees that Iranian forces must leave the country as soon as the bloody civil war ends and a new democratic government is established, he said. In the meantime, however, anti-regime rebels — or “terrorists,” as Frolov called them — are trying to destabilize Syria, prompting Assad to invite Iranian forces to help defeat them, he said. Russia is convinced that all foreign military personnel will leave the country once calm has been reestablished.