In an interview today, President Bashar Assad of Syria claims that Russia has delivered some of the S-300 missiles he bought.The Lebanse paper, Al Akhbar, quoted from an exclusive interview Assad gave to Hezbollah’s Al Manar television channel.

“Syria has received the first batch of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles,” Assad declared in the interview to be aired Thursday night on the Lebanese channel al-Manar, pointing out that, “the rest of the load will arrive soon.

Officials in Israel and the US are disputing Assad’s claim, saying that there is no evidence that such a shipment has been received.

If true though, the delivery of these missiles would be a game changer for Israel. Earlier this week, Israel’s International  Affairs Minister, Yuval Steinitz outlined a number of threats that these missiles pose for Israel.

International Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz warned that the S-300 anti-aircraft system which Russia is set to send to Syria can also potentially be used as an offensive weapon to shoot down Israeli civilian planes over Tel Aviv. …

He said that the advanced weapons platform could end up in the hands of the wrong rebel groups or make its way to Assad’s Iranian allies. Steinitz stated that Israel still hoped to convince Russia to suspend the sale of the S-300 to Syria.

Because of the threat these missiles pose to Israel – as well as the region – Israel has said that it will take action to prevent them from becoming operational.

The other major claim in Assad’s interview though is disturbing.

Assad said that the Syrian army has made great achievements on the ground against the armed groups, adding that the military balance of power has completely turned in the army’s favor.

“Syria and Hezbollah are parts of the same axis. There are Hezbollah fighters in the border areas with Lebanon, but the Syrian army is the force that is fighting and managing battles in the face of the armed opposition groups,” Assad said.

This is apparently a boast about the Syrian/Hezbollah success in taking the pivotal town of Qusayr back from Syrian opposition forces.

“We have suffered heavy losses,” said Yazed al Hasan, a spokesman for the rebel Farouq Battalions, which have occupied Qusayr since last year. He also acknowledged that government forces had recaptured the military airport north of the city.

The Hezbollah fighter, who asked to be referred to only as Ayoub, a pseudonym, because Hezbollah’s leadership hadn’t authorized him to speak to reporters, said his group’s strategists had divided Qusayr “on a grid into 16 squares.”

“We have cleared 13 of them,” he said.

If this is true, Hezbollah may have helped Assad, but at a high cost. For one thing it appears that Hezbollah sustained a high number of casualties.

If Hezbollah needed help from Assad’s elite forces, it suggests that it isn’t as strong as it likes to boast.

Maybe Assad was in a good mood due to his troops’ apparent success in Qusayr, but it doesn’t mean that he’s received the weapons that he covets.


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