January 31, 2022 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1620

Assad Regime Supporters Criticize Russia For Failing To Stop Israeli Attacks On Syria: The Syrian People May Act Against The Russians And Expel Them From Country

January 31, 2022 | By O. Peri*
Russia, Syria | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1620


Intense criticism has lately been heard in Syria against its ally Russia, regarding the latter's policy vis-à-vis the attacks on Syria that have been attributed to Israel.[1] Elements close to the Syrian regime accused Russia of collaborating with Israel and of "greenlighting" its attacks.

The Syrian fury at Russia came to a head following the December 7, 2021 and December 28, 2021 attacks on Latakia Port, one of Syria's major ports, including for Iranian ships. The anger was due to the considerable damage caused to shipping containers at the port,[2] and also because the Khmeimim Russian airbase is less than 30 km away, and therefore, Syrians claimed, Russia could have clearly responded to the attacks or even prevented them, had it wished to.

Figures close to the Syrian regime, including journalists and former officials, stated that Russia is using its presence in Syria to further its interests at the expense of Syria's security. They claimed that Israel coordinates with Russia before every attack, and that Russia deliberately refrains from activating its air defense systems to intercept the Israeli missiles. This policy, they added, is causing the Syrian people to lose the trust and appreciation they have felt for the Russians since the latter's military intervention in the country in 2015. Some of the writers even warned that this situation, if it continues, may jeopardize the presence of the Russian forces in Syria and prompt the Syrians to start fighting them.

In response to the criticism, Syria's ambassador to Russia, Riyad Haddad, denied that the Russians were greenlighting the Israeli attacks,[3] but this statement did not allay the anger of Syrians, who continued to express their ire.

On January 17, 2022 Russia posted a permanent military police force at Latakia Port. Furthermore, on January 24, for the first time since the arrival of the Russian forces in Syria, the Russian and Syrian armies held a joint air patrol along the border with Israel in the Syrian Golan. These Russian moves sparked speculations about a Russian decision to signal to Israel that it should stop its airstrikes in Syria. However, the Syrian criticism of the perceived Russian policy continued, even after Russia took these steps.[4] In any event, on January 31, the Syrian regime reported yet another attack by Israel in the Damascus area.[5]

It should be mentioned that this is not the first time regime officials and supporters have expressed criticism against Russia. In 2020 Syrian MP Khaled Al'-Aboud published a harsh article threatening military action against the Russian forces in the country in response to criticism of the Assad regime in the Russian media.[6]

Cartoon in the London-based Arab daily Al-Arab: Russia "greenlights" Israeli attacks on "Iranian interests in Syria," December 8, 2021

This report reviews the criticism recently voiced against Russia by supporters of the Assad regime in the context of the attacks attributed to Israel.

Cousin Of President Assad: The Russian Air Defense Systems Are Capable Of Intercepting The Missiles

Douraid Al-Assad, the cousin of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, accused Russia of deliberately refraining from activating its air defense systems to intercept the Israeli missiles. He posted on Facebook: "Israel places Russia in some unenviable positions! This has nothing to do with the mutual defense agreements between Russia and Syria, and everything to do with the commercial reputation… of the Russian S-200, S-300 and S-400 air-defense systems in the global arms market! It is a well-known fact that the radars of these missile systems can identify enemy targets from a great distance, and therefore these systems are supposed to respond to enemy missiles directly, the moment they are launched, and one Russian missile can hit several enemy missiles! If we say that Russia knows about the Israeli airstrikes in advance  – because certain agreements between [Russia and Israel] stipulate that Israel must inform the Russians ahead of every airstrike in Syria – then the embarrassment is even greater, considering that Russia is responsible for defending Syria against every external attack, as stated in the agreements [between Syria and Russia]! Between one embarrassment and the other, the hostile [Israeli] air force operates in Syrian airspace while disregarding the whole thing!" [7]

Syrian Television Reporter: Russia Must Understand That The Syrian People Are Losing Faith In It And May Expel It From The Country

Ja'far Younis, a military reporter on Syrian television, was more explicit in his criticism, stressing that the Syrians were losing their faith in Russia in a way that could impact the latter's continued military presence in the country. He wrote: "Honestly, being very familiar with the Russians' operation methods in Syria… the failure to activate the Russian S-300 and S-400 missile systems definitely made it easier [for Israel] to directly target [Latakia] Port. Clearly, there is coordination between Israel and Russia before every attack in order to keep the systems from operating… Russia must understand that every time it turns a blind eye to Israel's insolent and unrestrained [attacks] on the soil of [Russia's] 'allies' – [attacks perpetrated] on the pretext of targeting Iranian positions – it loses the trust of the peoples even more than the trust of the governments and of its allies... We appreciate the military aid extended to us by the Russians and thank them for it,  but nothing in this world comes for free. Furthermore, we are not so naïve as to assume Russia regards us and the Israelis the same way… But the Russians must not forget that it is the peoples who determine their own fate and decide who will stay on their soil and who will leave, even if this takes a long time."[8]

Syrian engineer Abu 'Ali Khadour not only criticized Russia but also attacked Iran for failing to respond to the Israeli attacks on Syria, writing: "When the enemy bombs Latakia Port, [we say:] 1. If the Russians know [about it] and keep silent then they are collaborating [with Israel]; 2. [Even] if they do not know when an attack is coming, if they do not respond then [it is as though] they agree to it; 3. If they know and do not want to respond, then their presence here is a burden for us and we do not need it.

"As for our Iranian allies: 1. If they know their positions are being deliberately bombarded and do not respond, then they are cowards; 2. If they know about the attack and do not want to respond, then they [essentially] agree to it; 3. If they know about the attack but do not respond and will not respond, but suffice with empty threats, then they are [also] a burden and a liability for us, and we have no need for their presence here.

"The credibility of the Russian and Iranian allies is being put to the test, and we expect our military leadership to restore [the situation whereby the enemy] treated our airspace with respect, for nobody will see to our affairs better than us. As for our political leadership, we expect it to take a decision regarding the foreign forces who claim to be allies but are useless..."[9]

Former Syrian minister of agriculture Noureddine Mona wrote sarcastically on Facebook after the December 7 attack on Latakia Port: "The Israeli attack on Latakia Port and the bombardment of other Syrian-Iranian targets took place near the Russian  – formerly Syrian – base of Khmeimim, where all the [Russian] air defense systems are located… Last night [these systems] were [apparently] all at a cocktail party, celebrating wildly, consuming hashish and drinking Russian vodka, so none of them noticed the Israeli missiles. Bless you, Abu 'Ali Putin, our manly strategic partner in mutual defense!!!..."[10] 

Former Syrian MP: The Russians Know About The Attacks In Advance, But Do Nothing To Stop Them

Similar criticism was also voiced after the second attack on the port. Syrian MP Khaled Al-'Aboud, who has spoken out against Russia in the past and even published an article in 2020 threatening military action against the Russians in the country,[11] wrote on Facebook following the second attack on the port: "Most Syrians expect [our] Russian ally to respond [to the Israeli attacks], and some are counting on this – [but] we are totally certain that it will not lift a finger, and perhaps it will not even be compelled to issue the smallest verbal condemnation, although it had advance warning of this unjust aggression!!"[12] 

Anger at Russia was also expressed by Syrian media figure Najla Al-Sa'di, who tweeted: "A blood-soaked [day] has dawned on Latakia. Russia is no longer a superpower in our eyes… The Bride of the Syrian Coast [Latakia] is bombarded right under Russia's nose and in front of its eyes."[13] 

Syrian Media Figure: Did The Russians Come Here To Defend Us Or To Help Others Attack Us?

Syrian media figure Majed Ahmad wrote on his pro-regime Facebook group page devoted to Latakia news: "Before Russia intervened in Syria in 2015, Israel used to attack us once a year or once in several months, but after Russia intervened Israel started attacking us about twice every month. Also, before the Russian intervention there wasn't a single Turkish soldier in Syria, but after this intervention tens of thousands of occupying Turkish troops entered the country. The question the Syrians are asking themselves is whether Russia came to Syria to help us defend ourselves against external attacks, or in order to encourage others to attack us and violate the sovereignty and integrity of our land."[14]

The chairman of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Industry, Fares Shehabi, took a harsher tone. He wrote on Facebook: "All of [our] allies, without exception, managed over the years, through us and with our help, to set up a strategic balance of deterrence vis-à-vis their global enemies – except on our [soil]! When will these allies understand that the Syrian people's willingness to accept them and host them depends on reestablishing the balance of terror vis-à-vis the Zionist enemy, by means of new balances of deterrence that will safeguard [Syria's] honor and sovereignty?!"[15]

Aftermath of the December 28, 2021 attack on the Latakia Port (Sources:,, December 28, 2021) 

Syrian Researcher: Russia's Tolerance Of Israeli Attacks Has Crossed Every Line

Syrian criticism against Russia was also expressed in articles published on social media and in the Arab (but not the Syrian) press, some of which even threatened the future presence of the Russian forces in Syria. Hasna Nasser Al-Hussein, an international relations researcher in Damascus, wondered how the Russians allow the Israeli attacks to continue. She wrote in the online daily "Russia has managed to establish much more than diplomatic, military and security ties with the Syrian state over the decade of war. The harmony between the two states percolated to the level of the Syrian people, who regarded Russia as a loyal ally and friend, thanks to its position in the international forums that convened again and again in order to topple Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin became a symbol for most Syrians, and pictures of him were hung in most Syrian cities, calling him 'Abu 'Ali Putin, a sign of the Syrian people's appreciation for his courage and bravery. But this image [of Putin] in the Syrian people's hearts and minds  gradually cracked, as the Israeli attacks on Syria continued and many questions began to arise regarding Russia's position vis-à-vis these [attacks].

"Today the Syrian people judge the Russian [ally] in light of the aggression of the Zionist enemy against Syria's soil and sovereignty. It has come to the point where [people] are questioning the abovementioned Russian position and expressing anger over the increasing Israeli attacks…  and everyone realizes that the Russian ally has granted Israel permission to constantly attack on Syrian soil. This [Russian] permission crossed every red line when [Israel] attacked Latakia Port, which constitutes a crucial strategic economic artery for Syria and its citizens and is Syria's portal to the outside world. Why did Russia grant this permission to the Zionist entity?!!

"Khmeimim base is [only] 30 km from the port that was attacked, which raises further questions regarding this suspicious Russian conduct vis-à-vis the actions of the Israeli enemy. We are talking about Russia, a country with very extensive capabilities in the spheres of surveillance, intelligence, observation and aerial defense… If the Russians know full well that most of the Israeli acts of aggression target Syrian positions and hubs, [as indicated by the Russian] reports, why do they continue granting this permission to the Zionist entity?!!..."[16]  

Syrian Journalist: Russian Forces May Find Themselves Attacked By Syrian Citizens

A Syrian pro-regime journalist who writes under the pen name Naram Serjoon also mentioned the Syrian people's growing rage against Russia, which may even lead to attacks on the Russian forces. In an article he published on his website, which was extensively shared on social media, he wrote: "The gravest blow to the Russian military presence in Syria is the arrogance of the Israelis and their repeated attacks on Syria [despite] the presence of the Russian forces. Many Syrians believe that these attacks must be fully coordinated with Russia, because Israel would not dare to attack without informing [the Russians in advance] and getting a green light. It has become very hard to convince the Syrians that Russia is blind and does not see the Israeli planes taking off towards Syria and attacking [targets] near Russia's bases, right under its nose. Whether the targets are Syrian or belong to Hizbullah or Iran, these are attacks on Syrian soil. They are a grave humiliation for the Syrians, who regard themselves as having won a global war, yet do not respond to attacks by Israel, which, [when faced with] the Gazan missiles, quaked in fear and asked the world for help. Many believe that Syria is certainly capable of responding to these Israeli [attacks], but Russia prefers to act with moderation and advises not to respond. Perhaps it imposes this out of its own considerations, which pertain to its agreements  with the U.S. and Israel regarding [maintaining] calm in the Middle East.

"But the Israelis and Americans act intensively on social media, inciting the Syrians, especially those living in the coastal cities, against the Russian presence. If this incitement, and the sowing of anger and rage against the Russians, bear fruit, they will change the Syrian's sentiment and attitude towards the Russians. Recent responses indicate that an attitude that no longer welcomes the [Russian] presence has begun to arise in popular circles… If the Israelis continue this game of incitement and humiliation, attacking undeterred by either the Russians or the Syrians, the Russian troops in the [Khmeimim] base will become prisoners there, unable to move freely in the streets of Syrian cities. People who once used to line up to shake their hands will [now] pelt them with stones. People will forget the Russia that fought, shed its blood, and stood steadfastly  by their side… The Israeli attacks on Syria do not achieve any significant military objective. They target the trust between Russia and the Syrian people and destroy the Syrian people's affection for Russia… [The Israelis] are waiting for the Syrian public to develop a position against the [Russian] presence, and such [a position] has already begun to form. Then it will be enough to spread [rumors] about some fabricated event… in order to prompt people to take up arms against the Russian troops in Khmeimim. The U.S. bases in Syria will be the first to provide them with arms, and then no Syrian government will be able to restrain their sentiments, which will be out of control…"[17] 

Syrian Former Diplomat: Russia Is Not Behaving Like An Ally Of Syria, Despite Being Deeply Indebted To Us

'Abd Al-Hamid Salloum, a Syrian former diplomat and a columnist for the online Arab daily, wrote on December 21 that the relations between Russia and Syria are neither an alliance nor a friendship, but a case of "domination and exploitation of the weak by the strong," and added: "According to the dictionaries, a friend is one who is friendly and loyal in good times and in bad. Where are [Russia's] friendship and loyalty amid the crises of wheat, bread, gas, fuel oil, petrol and electric power that the Syrian people have been experiencing for quite a long time, while the Russians export all these commodities to the world? Moreover, our mountains, woods and forest burn right next to them, yet they do not dispatch a single firefighting plane like the ones they once sent to Israel and to Turkey. These are humanitarian matters, on which even your enemy will be willing to assist you if you ask. For example, the U.S. offered aid to Iran following the earthquake that took place there a few years ago, despite all the hostility [between them].

"True, the Russians helped in the war against the extremist and terrorist Islamist organizations, but they did not do so out of altruism,  and every action they carried out has been recorded as a Syrian debt [to Russia]. This, in addition to the military assets they gained in the eastern Mediterranean basin, which is strategically and geo-strategically important for Russia, [namely]: air, naval and ground bases that the Russians dreamed of; economic profits and contracts for extracting phosphates, oil and gas; the experience gained by the Russian troops; the chance to field-test over 300 kinds of weapons on Syrian soil, to renew the Russian influence in the global arena by means of Syria, and to use Syria as a bargaining chip to improve its position vis-à-vis the West on the issues of Ukraine and Crimea.  All this requires Russia to pay Syria, not the other way around, and to disallow any Israeli aggression on Syrian soil. It makes no sense to be polite to Israel and consider its interests at the expense of Syria's...[18]

*O. Peri is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[1] For example, the October 30, 2021 attack in the area of Al-Dimas and Qadisiya north of Damascus, which, according to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, targeted a shipment of arms to Hizbullah, and resulted in the death of five operatives of militias backed by Iran and Hizbullah  and a November 8, 2021 attack on Syria army and Hizbullah military facilities east of Homs (see, October 30, 2021, November 8, 2021).

[2] According to port official George Mokabari, 416 containers were damaged in the December 28 attack, and it was over a week before the port resumed operations (, January 8, 2022). According to Syrian opposition sources, the attack targeted an arms shipment intended for the Iran-backed militias in Syria (, Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, London, December 7, 2021).

[3], November 27, 2021; Al-Ba'th (Syria), December 6, 2021.

[4] A reporter for the Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily quoted Syrian sources which claimed that Russian forces deliberately ignored attacks on Latakia Port due to the Russian desire that the Syrian regime grant it control of the port, Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 26, 2022; see also MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1475 - Struggle Between Russia, Iran For Control Over Syria's Centers Of Power, September 23, 2019.

[5], January 31, 2022.

[7], December 7, 2021.

[8], December 7, 2021.

[9], December 8, 2021.

[10], December 7, 2021.

[12], December 28, 2021.

[13], December 28, 2021.

[14], December 28, 2021.

[15] December 28, 2021.

[16], December 9, 2021.

[17], December 9, 2021.

[18], December 21, 2021.

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