Tensions were raised today as Israel and the United States tested missile defense systems in the Mediterranean. The already stressed relationships in the region were further tried as a Sparrow series missile was fired and successfully tracked by the Arrow missile defense system. The unannounced test was a joint undertaking by the Israel Defense Force and the U.S Missile Defense Agency. The testing of missile defense capabilities in the region suggests that Israel is making preparations for any counter attacks a U.S strike against Syria would cause.
Israel’s Defense Ministry has insisted that the tests were planned well ahead of the launch of the Sparrow series missile while the timing of the test suggests it was just as much a display of power by the U.S ally. Uzi Rabin, the designer of the Arrow system, told Reuters that the tests generally go unnoticed. What has made the difference is the unusually high vigilance by Russia and the Syrian forces in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has called the anti-missile systems a “wall of iron” which “give us the power to protect ourselves”. This is a result of the fears that Israel would suffer the brunt of a Syrian response to the U.S intervention in the region.
Israel’s missile defense system currently consists of four layers. The Iron Dome system, for short to medium ranged rockets, David’s Sling, for medium and long-range rockets, the Arrow 2 anti-ballistic shield and the Arrow 3 system. The Arrow systems are designed to defend against long range and upper atmospheric projectiles.
Reports of the missile launch set off a flurry of activity as opposition to the Assad regime got ready for, what they expected to be, the first of the strikes against the Syrian government. The Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, announced early on Tuesday afternoon that the missiles had been detected by Russian Radar but gave no further clarification. It is reported that the Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, briefed President Putin of the missile launch, despite the lack of details made available about the launch at the time.
It is likely, given the politics of the region, that a U.S led intervention, strikes against Syria and an attack against the Assad regime would trigger violence in the volatile region. Israel, as the U.S’s closest ally in the region, has stated that they will not be involved in any of the proposed strikes. It is unclear whether the strikes hinge entirely on the decision to be made later this month by the U.S Congress or whether President Obama will initiate action without their support.
Written By: Mitchell Luthi