Fears that World War 3 could start in Syria reached a new crescendo this week as Russia allegedly deployed a super-powerful missile known as the "Growler," capable of shooting down an aircraft flying as high as 90,000 feet, according to media reports this week. Though Russia has ostensibly entered the Syria conflict with the objective of combatting the terror organization ISIS, the Islamist extremist group does not have aircrafts, making the need for anti-aircraft weapons in the region a puzzling one.
The Growler, officially known as the SA-400 in Russia and the SA-21 in NATO terminology, can also be used to strike targets on the ground as far as 250 miles away. The formidable missile system, according to a Thursday report in Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, has been positioned on the Syrian coastline along the Mediterranean Sea, in the Latakia Air Base.
Watch the actual firing of the Growler missile in the video above, on this page.
According to a report by the Israeli Arutz Sheva news channel, the Latakia base has been a transition point for weapons from Iran on their way to the anti-Israel, Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah — arms shipments that Israel has said that it will not permit.
Hezbollah, though based in Lebanon, has long backed the Syria regime of strongman Bashar al-Assad, and has fought on Assad's side against various rebel groups in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Russia also supports Assad — but ISIS is dedicated to overthrowing the Assad regime, albeit to replace it with their own "Islamic caliphate" dictatorship.
Though Israel has never confirmed — or denied — using air strikes to impede or destroy arms shipments to Hezbollah, repeated reports in both Arab and Israeli media have indicated, as recently as earlier this week, that Israel does carry out such air strikes to stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.
But the Russian Growler missile could put an end to those air strikes, seriously weakening Israel's ability to stop Hezbollah from gaining sophisticated weapons to use against Israel, as well as against the Assad regime.
"There have been Arab media reports of Israeli airstrikes in Latakia against advanced weapons shipments headed for the Iranian terror proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon," reported Arutz Sheva. "Those operations would now be greatly threatened by the Russian deployment."
The Russian Defense Ministry posted the following photograph on its own Facebook page — a photo that according to the media reports, shows what appears to be the distinctive tower of the 96L6 radar, which is part of the Growler missile system, in the background.
Positioning the deadly missile system at the Latakia Air Base means that not only can Russia now control the skies over Syria, but also now has almost all of Israel, as well as southern Turkey, and even a British military air base in Cyprus within striking distance for the Russians.
But according to a report in the Kremlin-owned English-language Russian news outlet RT, the Russian Defense Ministry has flatly denied that Russia has deployed the SA-400 Growler missile system in Syria.
"There have not been and there are no S-400s [at the base]. This is incorrect," said Russian Defense Spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov on Friday. "It's just bewildering, if not outright laughable when looking at some of the reports about our airbase, which are regularly appearing in foreign newspapers and publications."
Konashenkov said that the Daily Mail report had simply misinterpreted the photograph on the Defense Ministry Facebook page.
"It would be better to read Wikipedia or the website of the Russian Defense Ministry to see what the S-400 missile air defense system looks like before frightening the British public and the whole world by saying the complex has been deployed here," the Russian defense official added.
Russia began air strikes inside Syria on September 30, raising fears that it was, in fact, starting a "proxy war" against the United States and other western nations — a proxy war that could blow up into World War 3. The U.S. wants to see Assad deposed, but despite their opposing positions toward the regime, both Russia and the U.S. are directing air strikes against ISIS in Syria.
[Featured Photo By Dennis Grombkowski / Getty Images]