Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reportedly agreed to supply the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah with a Russian-made missile defense system, raising concerns about potential escalation in the region. According to US intelligence, the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group has been tasked with delivering the SA-22 missile system, also known as Pantsir, to Hezbollah.
The exact status of the delivery remains unclear, but the US has been closely monitoring recent movements of the system. The assessment is based on intelligence gathered from discussions between Assad, Wagner, and Hezbollah. Wagner, along with Hezbollah fighters, has been operating in Syria alongside Russian and Syrian armed forces to support the Assad regime.
A third source familiar with western intelligence suggests an increasing collaboration between Hezbollah and Wagner in Syria. This collaboration gives rise to concerns that Hezbollah may open a new front in Israel’s conflict with Hamas on the northern border with Lebanon.
In response to the potential escalation, the US has warned Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups to refrain from involvement in the conflict. The US has also deployed carriers and troops in the region as a deterrent to any escalation. Israel, in the past, has targeted missile systems within Syria as part of broader attacks on Iranian military sites.
The extent of Russia’s involvement and influence over the decision to provide the missile defense system to Hezbollah remains unclear. However, the US intelligence community believes that Iran and its proxies are carefully calculating their response to Israel’s military intervention in Gaza to avoid direct conflict. Despite this, concerns about Hezbollah’s internal politics potentially escalating tensions persist.
To gain insight into Hezbollah’s intentions, intelligence officials will monitor a major speech by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. His remarks may provide signals about the group’s plans and actions in response to the situation.
As developments unfold, the international community will closely watch the evolving dynamics in the region and their potential consequences for stability.
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