Russia Missile Attacks Embarrass Obama, Warn Israel

Russia’s October 7 cruise missile bombardment of anti-Assad Syrian rebels from ships stationed nearly 1000 miles away was probably the most expensively ineffectual display of military firepower since Bill Clinton launched a similar strike against al Qaeda in 1998. Clinton’s feckless and spendthrift action was supposedly in retaliation for the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya and succeeded by most accounts in wiping out a few empty tents with several tons of explosives and several million dollars’ worth of advanced ordnance.  

It is unlikely that Vladimir Putin’s strike did much damage to Syrian rebels either. But unlike Clinton (and the current Democrat in the White House) Putin doesn’t use force to shirk greater national responsibilities, he uses it to pursue clear strategic objectives. In this case, the Russian decision to launch brand-new Kalibr-NK missiles from the Caspian Sea fleet was clearly intended as yet another poke in the eye to President Obama, and a demonstration of Russian firepower, from diminutive but still dangerous Russian warships. 

The 26 missiles were launched by three patrol boats and a frigate (a warship smaller than a destroyer.)  Russian spokesmen claimed all landed within nine feet of their targets, a degree of accuracy probably not needed against dispersed irregular infantry, but necessary to hit opposing warships, like those flying American flags. The Syrian rebels served as live practice targets for the Russian missile crews, who got to shoot off the new and previously unproven (in combat) missile. 

Beyond heaping yet another humiliation on Obama and signaling American admirals to keep their distance, the missile attack probably also sent a very pointed message to Israel. Israel currently deploys four advanced German-made and Israeli equipped Dolphin submarines, with two more on the way. Most analysts presume that these advanced boats are intended to penetrate the Persian Gulf in the event of war with Iran, and from their launch cruise missiles in support of Israeli air action. 

However, several years ago, in this article I proposed that the Israeli purpose was probably otherwise. Israeli is widely presumed to have equipped the subs with Israeli Popeye turbo cruise missiles with a range similar to that of the Russian Kalibr-NK. With such a weapon, Israeli subs need not make the long and dangerous journey to the Persian Gulf, but could launch from off the coast of Syria, the missiles following a flight plan very similar to those the Russian weapons took (but in reverse) where they could strike targets across northern Iran.

If I could conceive of such a plan, so could Russian intelligence services, which have probably backed this idea with hard, but secret intelligence. The Russian attack is a clear signal to Israel, demonstrating that cruise missiles which can go from the eastern Mediterranean to Iran can go the other way too. It is unlikely that it was a message lost on the Israelis, and more evidence that Russia’s movement in to the Syrian arena is proving disastrous for America and her allies.  

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