Israel is worried about a recent shift in how Iran works with the Syrian government to store and move weapons and ammunition by land, sea and air. In recent news stories from Tehran, the phrase “near the process of handing over an air defence system of the Khordad 15 type” suggests that there are efforts to make these secret transfers public. Officials in Tehran didn’t say how or when the “handover” would happen, but the official TV and Tasnim, which is a semi-official Iranian news outlet, have said in recent days that this move will happen.
Israeli planes have been hitting targets in Syria for a long time, but Israel has never acknowledged them. The strikes were meant to stop the flow of weapons and give the “Revolutionary Guard” time to move more advanced equipment. The last bombing was on a building in the Damascus neighbourhood of Kafar Souseh. This was done to increase the number of targets and change some equations.
The official media in Syria said that the bombing killed people, some of whom were in the military. Sources who did not want to be named told the media that the strike was meant to hit a house where Iranian officials and experts in making drones were meeting.
After that, the Commander of the Syrian Air Defense Forces, Salahuddin Kaser al Ghanem, went to Tehran and met with Iranian Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani. This was the second time in less than a month that a military official from Syria went to Tehran.
Most of what was said during both visits, whether by the Iranians or the Syrians, was about how they wanted to “rebuild the Syrian army and strengthen its air defences.” This is despite media outlets saying last week that Kaser al-Ghanim’s arrival was to ensure everything was ready for Khordad 15 transfer.
Iran has claimed that the Khordad 15 is an air defence system that can shoot down warplanes, drones, and other threats since it was made public in 2019.
During the inauguration event, the Iranian Minister of Defense, Amir Hatami, stated that the Khordad system could detect combat aircraft and drones from a distance of 150 kilometres and track them within a range of 120 kilometres . He added that the device could detect stealth targets 85 kilometres away and destroy them 45 kilometers away.
Hatami said that with the Sayyad-3 missiles, the system can find, intercept, and destroy six targets simultaneously and can do this in less than five minutes.
Since 2012, there have been no reports of the Syrian government using advanced Iranian weapons. Most of the time, the Syrian regime’s army uses the Russian “S-200” and older “Pantsir” systems and other systems that haven’t worked well.
Syria received the Russian S-300 air defence system five years ago, but Israeli reports say that Moscow took it away almost a year ago because of the consequences of its war with Ukraine.
Earlier in July 2020, there were rumours that Iran will provide Syria with Bavar-373 and Khordad-15 missile systems, but the plan never materialised.
The Khordad 15 can potentially change part of the equation if the “handover intentions” are true. The delivery of the Iranian system comes as a temporary substitute since the Russians are concerned about the Syrians employing the S-300 air defence system against Israeli aircraft.
Tehran wants to give the Khordad 15 system to the Syrian government for several reasons. One is that Israel has broken all the rules of engagement between Iran and Israel by attacking Syrian civilian airports.
Targeting airports prevent the supply of arms to Syria, whereas the recent attack in Kafr Souseh made Iran fear that senior Iranian officials operating there would be targeted.
The objective of giving the Khordad system to the Syrian government is to keep Israeli planes out of Syrian airspace. Furthermore, the system works even if Israel uses ballistic missiles or airstrikes from Lebanese airspace to attack targets in Syria.
Iranian air defence systems may serve as cover for other Iranian initiatives in Syria and send a broader message in the region. The Juniper Oak 23 joint American-Israeli manoeuvres, which ended on January 27, 2023, are the most extensive cooperative manoeuvres in Israeli and American history, simulating a classic war with Iran.
It should also be recalled that Israel asked the US to send the most advanced “F-15EX” aircraft, which can carry more bombs than the “F-35,” to hit Iranian nuclear sites. It is expected that these aircraft will be delivered in 2028. On the other hand, there has been news regarding Tehran’s desire to purchase Russian Su-35 aircraft, and it has lately unveiled an underground shelter for these aircraft dubbed Oqab 44 (Eagle 44).
Iran is attempting to construct a multilateral deterrent equation (Syria-Lebanon-Palestine) by arming Syria and sending drones to Hezbollah to prevent future attacks directly targeting its lands.