(Foreign Policy) Israeli defense officials have eyed the nearly three-year Syrian civil war warily, concerned that a faltering Assad regime may try to offload some of its advanced weaponry to its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon rather than let it fall into the hands of rebel forces. Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that, despite Israeli efforts to prevent Syrian weapons transfers to Lebanon, U.S. officials believe that Syrian forces have managed to smuggle advanced guided missiles to its Lebanese allies.
The new weapon in Hezbollah’s arsenal keeping Israeli officials up at night, according to the Wall Street Journal, is a set of Russian Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles. Russia delivered 72 Yakhont missiles to Syria in December 2011, along with 18 mobile launch vehicles designed to be stationed along the coast, and Syrian state news televised the Syrian Navy test-firing the missiles. Moscow then followed up in May 2013 with an additional shipment of even more advanced, more accurate, radar-equipped Yakhont missiles. They have a range of about 180 miles, fly close to the sea at Mach 2 to evade radar, and are usually armed with an armor-piercing or high-explosive warhead.