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'Big mistake' for Israel to downplay missiles to Syria

It is a “big mistake” for Israel to minimize the delivery by Russia of the S300 antiaircraft system to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, charged former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton in a radio interview today.

“I think that it is important to understand that if and when the S300s do arrive, both radars and missiles, and are put in competent hands, that this really is a game changer,” said Bolton.

“I think it’s a big mistake for the Israeli leadership, the political class, to say that the S300s are not a problem,” he said.

Bolton was speaking on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on New York’s WABC Radio.

The diplomat warned the S300 is a “very sophisticated air-defense system … it has been successful against everything other than stealth aircraft in the past.”

Bolton said if Syria receives the system, there is a risk the missiles could be transferred to Iran or to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon.

Continued Bolton: “So when this deployment comes, whenever that turns out to be, and the Russians have made completely clear they intend to go ahead with it, completely clear, this is a very substantial increase in air-defense capabilities.”

Last week Israel’s Haaretz newspaper quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser, Yaakov Amidror, as warning European diplomats that Israel would “prevent the S-300 missiles from becoming operational.”

Amid claims the S300 may have already been delivered to Assad, a former Israeli official last week tried to minimize the Russian system. Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Arens said that if the S300 were transferred “our Air Force can deal with them.”

“This wouldn’t be good publicity for a product that is their export product,” Arens said.  “They are selling this product to many countries and it won’t help their export.”

S300 missile batteries are able to intercept manned aircraft and guided missiles.

Last week, Russia confirmed plans to sell the surface-to-air defense missile systems to Assad’s regime.

The Wall Street Journal reported Syria has been making payments on a 2010 agreement with Russia to purchase four batteries for $900 million, with delivery expected within three months.

The Journal reported the S300 package included six launchers and 144 operational missiles, each with a range of up to 200 miles.