CIA arms Islamic rebels, Syria downs Turkish warplane - June, 2012

The potential for internationalizing the crisis in Syria is very high once again. Merely two days after publicly admitting that CIA operatives in Turkey were indeed organizing arms shipments to Islamic rebels in Syria and a day after a Syrian air force officer defected to Jordan with his warplane, the Turkish air force sent a flight of warplanes into Syrian air space only to have one get shot-down by Syrian air defense forces. For what it's worth, Israel's Mossad affiliated news agency Debka is now reporting that the Turkish warplane, most probably conducting tactical surveillance, was downed by Syrian air defense forces using the newly delivered Russian-made Pantsir-1 surface-to-air missile system. There is a high probability that the Pantsir air defense system was involved in shooting-down the Turkish/NATO spy plane. The following is a closer look at the Russian-made Pantsir-1 -
Pantsir-S1 (ЗРПК "ПАНЦИРЬ-С1"):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywcnw8r-CAo
But there is more to the story. In Tel Aviv's reporting there is also the clear insinuation that it may have been a Russian crew that brought down the aircraft. This could very well be disinformation put out by the Mossad. But if true, and I do not see why it cant be true, this may also be the second time Russian crews have managed to score a major victory against Western forces in the air. Last year it was reported that Russian special units may have assisted Iranians in electronically hijacking a state-of-the-art pilot-less stealth reconnaissance drone being operated by the CIA. I personally believe that Russian military personal are very involved behind the scenes in Syria. It's very probable that Moscow did have a hand in bringing down the Turkish warplane. Besides sending a strong message to Western powers that Syria is not Iraq or Libya, Moscow be clearing the skies over Syria before the arrival of new weapons systems.

Nevertheless, far from the battle zones the rhetoric against Damascus is evolving and taking on a more sinister tone. From the editorial staff of mainstream news organizations to politicians to television pundits, like a well coordinated chorus of demonic voices they are all calling for a war. Their geostrategic agenda to wipe-out regimes in the Middle East that are non-aligned to the political/financial West is continuing in full force. We can all expect things to heat-up further before the end of this summer.

Even before these latest incidents, Syria had begun reporting increasing number of military loses to better armed Islamic rebels. It's clear that Western powers and allied Turco-Islamic interests are now pushing the envelope in the Levant. I personally think it's a time concern for them. It was clear last year that the West sought armed intervention in Syria by this spring. They were planning on a Libyan scenario. What Western powers may not have anticipated, however, was the steadfast resistance it has been shown by Moscow. Let's call it as is, had it not been for direct threats by Moscow, had it not been for Russian arms shipments to Syria, I have no doubt NATO forces would have been operating inside Syrian territory by now. The primary difference between Syria and Libya has been the Russian factor. Thus far, it has been the provisions of Russian made anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile batteries and the willingness of Assad's forces to use them is what's keeping Syria's enemies off of Syrian territory.

Recognizing that the civil war now raging on in Syria has gone well beyond the point-of-no-return Syria's enemies are currently placing their emphasis on seeking weak spots in Syria's armor. They will fully exploit any vulnerabilities they find. Damascus' fate is a forgone conclusion as far as Western powers are concerned. Syria is the strategic chess piece that has to fall before they are able to continue their advance in the region. Ironically, in the big picture, if Damascus falls, it won't be the doing of Western, Turkish or even Israeli forces, it will be the doing of Arabs themselves.

Once the cradle of Arab nationalism, Syria has become a victim of Arab treachery and stupidity. Arabs remain amongst the world's most easily manipulated and sacrificed sheeples. Libya and Syria are glaring examples of who the leadership of Sunni Arab states throughout the Arabian peninsula and North Africa serve. Recent events also prove beyond any doubt that "Al-Qaeda" is the Islamic paramilitary wing of Western intelligence agencies. There should no longer be any doubt about this. The Western alliance has turned the stomping grounds of Mohammad into a stinking brothel and it has done so with the willing participation of brain-dead Sunni Arabs. The Alawites of Syria, the Hezbollah of Lebanon and the Islamic republic of Iran may be the only remaining light in the God-forsaken region.

Many today are looking at Russia and to a lesser extent China to come to Syria's aid. That's fine. But if Syrians themselves are on the path to self-destruction, there is only so much Moscow or anyone else for that matter can do to stop them. If a nation's self-destructive peasantry is determined to self-destruct, there is not much any outside power can do to stop them from doing so. If the Western alliance and friends are determined to topple the Syrian regime, as they clearly seem to be, there is only so much nations like Russia can do, short of going to war against them for Syria, which I don't see Moscow doing at this point.
In other words, if Syrians want to engage in self-mutilation, as Libyans happily did, there is not much Russia, China or even Iran can do about it.

Nevertheless, with early summer now upon us, Washington and friends seem to be in a hurry, and this may be the reason why they began to significantly increase the pressure on Damascus. They are probing for weak spots in Syria's defenses. The Turkish warplane that was shot-down by Syrian air defense forces (which may have been a pilot-less drone) may have deliberately been sent into Syrian airspace with the precise hope that Damascus would fire at it. Although this may be tactical move, meaning they may be trying to asses Syria's air defense capabilities, this may also be a strategic move, meaning they may be creating a pretext for war. I hope I am wrong about this but the ladder may be the case. I suspect that they may be seeking a pretext for direct military intervention in Syria, or at the very least a good excuse to give Islamic rebels operating inside Syria more lethal weapons.

Besides the Iranian factor, are there any other reasons why the Anglo-American-Zionist global order and their Turkic and Wahhabi Islamist allies are fixated on destroying Syria? Yes there is. And they are: oil transit, Russian warships and Russian missiles. The following is more information on the three non-Iranian factors that have led to the international conspiracy against Syria -

Oil Road Through Damascus (2012 Asia Times report): http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NB15Ak02.html

Syria: we'll host Russian missile system (2008 RT report): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNd5sznQo68&feature=fvwrel
Russian Navy to base warships at Syrian port after 2012 (2010 Ria Novosti report): http://en.rian.ru/russia/20100802/160041427.html
Needless to say, much is now dependent on Moscow. How far will Moscow go if NATO and its regional allies up-the-ante by invading Syria? Will Kremlin officials decide to go to war in defense of Syria as it has been suggested by some Russian officials or will they continue supporting Damascus from the sidelines? How will Moscow respond if Russian interests in Syria get attacked? If NATO invades Syria will Moscow react by moving military units into Georgia? If Damascus is facing an imminent NATO military intervention will Iran respond by sending military units into Syria? What will Iraq's Shiite majority government react to all this? Will renewed fighting flareup between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah? What role will Kurds play? Why role will Sunni Arab dictatorships throughout the Arabian peninsula play?

These are not simple questions to answer or to foretell for in them lies the very seeds of a major global war. I am sure that questions such as these are what's keeping Kremlin strategists awake at nights. The massive powder-keg that is currently on the verge of exploding in the Middle East is at the very doorstep of the Russian Federation. In the meanwhile, let's all hope that Syria's armed forces remain competent enough to scare Western forces away.

In closing, t
he greatest threat the world has faced, perhaps ever, is the threat currently emanating from the Anglo-American-Zionist global order and their Turkic and Wahhabist allies. The aforementioned global political/financial/cultural entity is the single greatest threat to indigenous cultures around the world; the very notion of the nation-state; apostolic Christianity; and the family unit. At the end of the day, mankind, including us politically illiterate and hopelessly naive Armenians will come to the understanding that the great nation of Russia is the world's last hope. Russia today is the last front against American imperialism, NATO expansionism, Globalism, Islamic fundamentalism, Zionism and pan-Turkism. More importantly for us Armenians: No Russia in the Caucasus means no Armenia in the Caucasus. Armenians! Stick as close to the Bear as possible!

As a supplement to this commentary, I have posted several previous blog entries. Please revisit them because the information provided within them remain pertinent to this day.


Arevordi
June, 2012

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Growing tensions in the Caucasus as the West tries to apply the "Libyan Model" to Syria and Iran - April, 2012: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2012/03/libyan-model-for-syria-and-iran-march.html

Russian military buildup in Caucasus, Russian anti-terror troops arrive in Syria, Armenia moves closer to Russia - March, 2012: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2012/03/russian-anti-terror-troops-arrive-in.html

Political unrest nearing Russia's southern border - February, 2012: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2012/02/as-political-unrests-near-russias.html

West, Arab League and Turkey Supporting Armed Islamic Militants in Syria - December, 2011: http://theriseofrussia.blogspot.com/2011/12/nato-arab-league-and-turkey-supporting.html

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Syria Downs Turkish Jet, Ankara to Act Decisively

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Syria shot down a Turkish warplane over the Mediterranean on Friday and Ankara warned it would respond decisively to the incident that threatened to open a new international dimension in the 16-month revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syria said the Turkish aircraft was flying low, well inside Syrian territorial waters when it was shot down.

With the second biggest army in NATO, a force hardened by nearly 30 years of fighting Kurdish rebels, Turkey would be a formidable foe for the Syrian army which is already struggling to put down a 16-month-old revolt. But Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's initial comments and subsequent statement on the downing of the F-4 jet were measured in tone. He said Turkish and Syrian forces were working together to search for the two missing crew of the aircraft.

"As a result of information obtained from the evaluation of our concerned institutions and from within the joint search and rescue operations with Syria, it is understood that our plane was brought down by Syria," Erdogan's office said in a statement. "Turkey will present its final stance after the incident has been fully brought to light and decisively take the necessary steps," the office said after a two-hour emergency meeting between prime minister, the chief of general staff, the defense, interior and foreign ministers, the head of national intelligence and the commander of the air force.

Turkish media had reported earlier that Syria had apologized for the incident, but Erdogan made no mention of any apology. Violence raged unabated inside Syria, which appears to be sliding into a sectarian-tinged civil war pitting majority Sunni Muslims against Assad's minority Alawite sect. Turkey fears the fighting if unchecked could unleash a flood of refugees over its own border and ignite regional sectarian conflict.

Ankara, which had drawn close to Syria before the uprising against Assad, turned against the Syrian leader when he responded violently to pro-democracy protests inspired by popular upheavals elsewhere in the Arab world. Turkey now gives refuge to the rebel Free Syrian Army on its frontier with Syria. Erdogan, whose enmity with Assad has assumed a strongly personal nature, gave no hint what action he might contemplate.

A statement by the Syrian military said the Turkish plane was flying low, just one kilometer off the Syrian coast, when it was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The plane fell in Syrian waters 10-kms (seven miles) west of the village of Um al-Touyour. "The navy of the two countries have established contact. Syrian naval vessels are participating along with the Turkish side in the search operation for the missing pilots," it said. Syria has some of the most sophisticated air defenses in the Middle East, supplied by Russia.

Turkish state television interviewed witnesses on the country's Mediterranean coast, near the Syrian border, who said they saw two low-flying fighter jets pass overhead in the morning in the direction of Syrian waters but only one return. Ankara has previously floated the possibility of setting up some kind of safe haven or humanitarian corridor inside Syria, which would entail military intervention, but has said it would undertake no such action without U.N. Security Council approval.

Turkey has said however that Assad must go. Turkey hosts about 32,000 Syrian refugees and allows the rebel Syrian Free Army to operate from its territory. The opposition Syrian National Council meets in Istanbul. It was unclear why the Syrians had shot down the aircraft, which, having left a base in Malatya, was flying close to a corridor linking Turkey with Turkish forces on Northern Cyprus.

"The Syrian military may have taken a calculated gamble by downing the Turkish plane, which could boost the morale of Assad's loyalists after increased defections from the military we have seen," Yasser Saadeldine, a prominent pro-opposition Syrian political commentator, said. "A Turkish retaliation would fit into the fantasy he (Assad)is peddling that the uprising is a foreign conspiracy."

Russia and China, Assad's strongest backers abroad, have fiercely opposed any outside interference in the Syrian crisis, saying envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan is the only way forward. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Syrian counterpart that he had urged Syria to "do a lot more" to implement Annan's U.N.-backed proposals, but that foreign countries must also press rebels to stop the violence.

Lavrov said the Syrian authorities were ready to withdraw troops from cities "simultaneously" with rebels. A Syrian military pullback and a ceasefire were key elements in Annan's six-point peace plan, most of which remains a dead letter.

"DESTRUCTIVE COMPETITION"

Annan hit out at some countries he said had taken national initiatives that risked unleashing "destructive competition". He told a news conference in Geneva that he wanted states with influence on both sides of the conflict to be involved in the peace process, including Iran, Assad's closest ally. The U.N.-Arab League envoy was speaking a week before a planned Syria crisis meeting that is in doubt because of Western objections to the Islamic Republic's participation.

Rebels killed at least 25 members of a mainly Alawite pro-Assad militia, and in a separate incident troops turned heavy machineguns on opposition demonstrators in the northern city of Aleppo, killing 10, opposition activists said. "Armed terrorist groups committed a brutal massacre against 25 citizens in Darat Azzah," state TV reported, saying more were missing from the village in Aleppo province. Several men covered in blood and piled on top of each other on a roadside, some in army fatigues and some in t-shirts, could be seen in a video link sent by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, apparently showing the aftermath of the same incident.

The British-based opposition watchdog said 26 men believed to be pro-Assad "Shabbiha" militiamen had been killed. Assad's foes have accused troops and Shabbiha militiamen of perpetrating many abuses against civilians, including mass killings, in the uprising that began in March last year with peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule. In Aleppo, Syria's business hub, thousands of demonstrators were marching toward the central Saadallah al-Jabiri Square when four armored vehicles fired on them, activists told Reuters by telephone. Two of them said they were speaking from Aleppo.

"The wounded were taken to houses and are trapped there. They cannot be transported to hospitals because troops and Shabbiha are surrounding the neighborhood," one of them said. Aleppo, along with central Damascus, had stayed relatively quiet in the early months of the revolt that engulfed many other provincial cities, but unrest has gradually spread there too. Activist video footage showed a large crowd of protesters, some draped in revolutionary flags, running along a street as heavy gunfire cracked out. Another video showed a man whose chest was covered in blood being dragged along the road.

FOUR OFFICERS DEFECT

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy government shelling on opposition strongholds in Idlib, Deraa and Homs provinces, as well as fighting between troops and rebels in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Friday, a day when anti-Assad protests often erupt after Muslim prayers. The 46-year-old leader's power rests mainly on the military and a cluster of security agencies dominated by his minority Alawite sect, a distant offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Four brothers, two brigadier-generals and two colonels, announced their defection from the army in a video posted on the Internet on Friday, a day after a Syrian air force pilot flew his MiG-21 fighter plane to neighboring Jordan. The brothers come from the northern province of Idlib, but do not appear to have had frontline roles in months of fighting there. Two worked as doctors in the Aleppo military hospital, one was an inspector and one was an air force instructor. The armed forces have suffered a trickle of defections to the opposition, but have remained mostly loyal despite the strain of battling an increasingly potent insurgency.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/22/us-syria-crisis-idUSBRE85D0IS20120622

Newly-supplied Russian Pantsyr-1 anti-air missile used to down Turkish warplane

http://www.aviacionargentina.net/foros/attachment.php?attachmentid=2039

Turkish Air Force F-4 Super Phantom Friday, June 22, over Latakia Syria used Russian-made self-propelled medium range anti-air Pantsyr-1 missiles recently supplied by Moscow (not as first reported anti-air Buk-M2 missiles). This weapon can down aircraft flying at altitudes up to 12 kilometers and cruise missiles. The unit responsible for the ambush was the 73rd brigade of the Syrian army’s 26th Air Defense Division.

Since the sophisticated weapons were delivered to the Assad regime in recent weeks, it must be assumed that local missile crews had not finished training in their use and would have had to rely on help from their Russian instructors to fire one.

This would be the first instance in the 15-month Syrian uprising of an advanced Russian-supplied weapon hitting the military target of a NATO member. Hence the comment from Washington by US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland who said: “We’ve seen the reports… We have obviously been in contact with our Turkish ally…. To my knowledge, they haven’t raised this at NATO at this point.”

Ankara has repeatedly threatened to ask NATO to invoke the pact’s article 5 obligating members to come to the aid of a fellow member coming under attack. In this case, however, the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s rhetoric was relatively restrained. He vowed to “determinedly take necessary steps” in response “once the incident is fully clarified,” leaving Ankara’s response deliberately vague.

President Abdullah Gul spoke out more strongly: “It is impossible to ignore our fighter jet being shot down by Syria,” he said after Damascus admitted to shooting down the plane, claiming its air defenses acted according to standard procedure before realizing it was a Turkish air force jet. Both are searching for the two missing pilots. debkafile’s military experts add: This was also the first time in five years any weapons system with Israeli manufacturing input had faced a Russian weapon acquired by Syria.

The first time was September 6, 2007, when Israeli fighter-bombers demolished the Iranian-North Korean-built nuclear reactor in the northern Syrian town of Al-Kibar. Airspace over the reactor was guarded by Russian Pantsyr-S1 anti-air missiles. Israeli bombers got through by disabling the Russian missiles’ radar so that Damascus never realized its reactor was being bombed until it had been smashed and Israeli bombers were home.

Five years later, Turkey has lost a Super Phantom which had undergone partial upgrading by the Israeli Aerospace Industry. However, two years ago, Ankara broke off its security and military ties with Jerusalem after a clash at sea between Turkish Mavi Marmara and Israel troops wich intercepted the vessel on its way to break Israel’s Gaza blockade, leaving nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists dead.

By severing those ties, the Erdogan government left Israel’s improvements unfinished and the Turkish air force’s F-4 short of counter-measures for evading or attacking the latest Russian-made air defense weapons fired by Syria. According to, debkafile’s military sources waylaying a Turkish military plane over the sea was therefore a simple matter for the new Pantsyr-1.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan admitted Saturday that the jet was shot down over the Mediterranean around 13 kilometers west of the Syrian port of Latakia. He did not explain what a Turkish bomber fighter was doing over Syrian territorial waters, but the suggestion, which Western military sources have confirmed, was that Turkish military jets have lately been carrying out almost daily reconnaissance flights over the Syrian coast.

Moscow and Damascus apparently decided it was time to stop the missions which among other things spied on the Russian arms supplies transiting Russian bases at the Syrian ports of Tartus and Latakia.

Source: http://www.debka.com/article/22112/Newly-supplied-Russian-Pantsyr-1-anti-air-missile-used-to-down-Turkish-warplane

Report: Turkey deploys tanks on Syrian border; Assad says country in a 'real state of war'

http://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.444620.1340875401!/image/3215061536.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_640/3215061536.jpg

Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Tuesday his country was in a real state of war and gave no sign of a softer approach towards a pro-democracy revolt by ordering his newly appointed government to direct all policies towards winning. Turkey deployed at least 15 tanks and armored vehicles on its border with Syria, local media reported, amid a row over a downed Turkish fighter jet.

"We live in a real state of war from all angles," Assad told a cabinet he appointed on Tuesday. "When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war." Assad snubbed countries that have been calling for him to step aside, saying the West "takes and never gives and this has been proven at every stage."

Earlier on Tuesday, Russia said Syria's shooting down of a Turkish warplane should not be seen as a provocation and warned world powers against using the incident to push for stronger action against Damascus. It was Moscow's first reaction to Friday's downing of a Turkish military aircraft by Syrian air defenses, which gave a new international dimension to the worsening conflict in Syria.

Turkey's NATO allies condemned Syria's action as unacceptable but stopped short of threatening any military response. Turkey also plans to approach the U.N. Security Council. "It is important that what happened is not viewed as a provocation or a premeditated action (by Syria)," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement on its website. Moscow repeated its calls for restraint, warning that any political escalation would be "extremely dangerous" and threaten international efforts to salvage a moribund six-point Syrian peace plan drawn up by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

"Once again, we call on all sides to act exclusively in the interests of such an agenda (the peace plan) and not to take steps that go beyond its limits," the ministry said. "We believe that the best course of action is restraint and constructive interaction between the Turkish and Syrian sides in order to clarify all the circumstances of the incident."

Syria provides Moscow with its firmest foothold in the Middle East, buys weapons from Russia worth billions of dollars, and hosts the Russian navy's only permanent warm water port outside the former Soviet Union.

Source: http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/report-turkey-deploys-tanks-on-syrian-border-assad-says-country-in-a-real-state-of-war-1.444201

Syria Masses Tanks on Turkey Border as Tensions Soar

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On Tuesday, Turkey deployed a number of tanks to their border with Syria, terming the nation a “clear and present threat” to the Turkish government’s security and vowing to shoot any Syrian troops perceived as “too close” to the border. The tensions haven’t cooled since then, and Syria has now sent some 170 tanks to the Turkish border, just northwest of Aleppo, in an effort to fortify the area against a possible Turkish incursion. Free Syrian Army (FSA) leadership speculated that the tanks were planning to attack rebels in the area, but it doesn’t seem to be about them. Rather, since Syria’s downing of a Turkish warplane that violated its airspace, the two nations seem to be on a collision course, and Turkey has been pressing for NATO to endorse the idea that the shootdown was a violation of their “sovereignty” and an attack on all of NATO. Despite the soaring tensions, US Gen. Martin Dempsey downplayed the seriousness of the situation, praising Turkey’s “measured” response to what he called a “hostile act” by Syria.

Source: http://news.antiwar.com/2012/06/29/syria-masses-tanks-on-turkey-border-as-tensions-soar/

Syria Puts Double Whammy on Turkey

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LinkThe shooting down of a Turkish fighter aircraft by Syria on Friday has become a classic case of coercive diplomacy. A Turkish F-4 Phantom fighter aircraft disappeared from radar screens shortly after taking off from the Erhach airbase in Malatya province in southeastern Turkey and entered Syrian airspace. According to Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), air-defense forces shot down the plane 1 kilometer off the coast from the Syrian port city of Latakia. A Turkish search-and-rescue aircraft rushed to the area of the crash but came under Syrian fire and had to pull out.

The Russian naval base at Tartus is only 90 kilometers by road from Latakia. The incident took place on a day that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem was on a visit to Russia. It also happened within a week of Britain staging a high-profile publicity event to humiliate Russia by canceling the insurance of a ship when it was off the coast of Scotland en route to Syria from Russia's Baltic port in Kaliningrad. British Foreign Secretary William Hague scrambled to take credit for that in the House of Commons.

The shooting down of the Turkish jet also coincides with a hardening of the Russian position on Syria. Moscow refused to comment on the incident when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu telephoned his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Sunday seeking understanding. Itar-Tass quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying the two diplomats "discussed the situation around Syria, including within the context of the incident with a Turkish fighter jet". Plainly put, Moscow was unwilling to treat Friday's incident in total isolation. Nor was it prepared to censure Damascus.

Unrealistic demand

Indeed, the Russian stance has perceptibly hardened in the past week in response to a recent series of provocative rhetoric by the United States and London's stage-managed event on June 18 to smear Moscow's stance on Syria. On Thursday, Lavrov bluntly warned that Russia would not countenance a replay of the Libyan scenario in Syria: "A replication of the Libyan scenario in Syria won't be admitted, and we [Russia] can guarantee this." Lavrov was dismissive of Western demands for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calling them "unrealistic". He insisted that "at least 50 percent" of Syrian people supported Assad's party in the recent parliamentary elections.

Again, on Sunday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov told Interfax: "We have no doubt that the imposition of any kind of regime change in Damascus from outside, and the one-sided support of the opposition, is a straight path to plunge the country into an abyss of full civil war." One major reason for this hardening of the Russian stance was Britain's publicity stunt on June 18. Moscow hit back by deciding that the ship carrying Russian helicopters to Syria, which was turned back after its insurance was cut, will resume its journey under escort from the Russian port of Murmansk after changing its flag to the Russian Standard.

The ship is apparently carrying up to 15 Mil Mi-25 helicopters that were repaired in Kaliningrad. The helicopters were originally bought by Assad's late father and predecessor Hafez al-Assad at the end of the 1980s. What made Moscow furious was that both Hague and his US counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, tried to propagate stories that the ship carried fresh arms supplies to Syria. Lavrov said:

"We are not going to make any excuses, because we did not breach anything. We violated neither international law nor UN Security Council resolutions nor our national legislation on export control ... We supply armaments under contracts, which imply purchase by Syria of primarily anti-aircraft means from us, which may be needed only in case of external aggression against the Syrian state. [Emphasis added.]
Interestingly, Lavrov said this on Sunday after the shooting down of the Turkish jet.

Momentary violation

It is against the totality of this background that the Syrian action against the Turkish aircraft needs to be weighed. Damascus has a reputation for "poker diplomacy". It may have conveyed a host of signals to Turkey (and its Western allies):

Yet Syria's official stance over Friday's incident has been very restrained, almost apologetic. To be sure, Syria cooperated with Turkey to locate the wreckage of the aircraft. Damascus admitted with a straight face that it was a regrettable incident but an inadvertent act and said the two countries should put it behind them. Syria meant no harm and the incident happened only because Syrian forces were under orders to shoot down foreign military aircraft that violated national airspace.

Turkey, of course, is fuming, knowing full well that Syria is a deep player. The Turkish government went into a huddle. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expected to make a statement in parliament Tuesday. President Abdullah Gul said, "It is not possible to cover over a thing like this; whatever is necessary will be done." Foreign Minister Davutoglu, however, has rejected the Syrian version of the incident. He said: "Our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria ... The plane did not show any sign of hostility toward Syria and was shot down about 15 minutes after having momentarily violated Syrian airspace." He dismissed Syria's plea that it did not know the plane was Turkish.

Davutoglu claimed that Turkey had intercepted radio communications from the Syrian side suggesting that they knew it was a Turkish aircraft. "We have both radar info and Syria's radio communications." There was no warning from Syria before the attack, he said. "The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission."

Conceivably, Syria wanted Turkey to know that its decision to shoot down the jet was deliberate. An exacerbation of Turkish-Syrian tensions is in the cards. Turkey has since invoked Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's charter, which says: "The Parties [member countries] will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened." A meeting of NATO ambassadors has been scheduled for Tuesday in Brussels.

Turkey is calibrating a strong response to the Syrian act. But a challenging time lies ahead for Erdogan. First and foremost, his interventionist policy in Syria does not enjoy the support of Turkey's opposition parties.

An obscure fracas

Knowing Erdogan's ability to whip up nationalistic sentiments, the opposition parties quickly concurred that Turkey must respond to incident. But they point out that Erdogan needlessly provoked Damascus and has destroyed Turkey's friendly ties with Syria. The leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdarglu, pointedly asked on Sunday after meeting with Erdogan: "Why have Turkey and Syria come to the brink of war?" The CHP's deputy head Faruk Logoglu, who is a distinguished former diplomat (ex-head of the Foreign Ministry and former ambassador to the US), said:
"We are very critical of the way AKP [Erdogan's Justice and Development Party] is handling the situation. There should be no outside intervention of any sort and any intervention must be mandated by a resolution of the UN Security Council. In the absence of such a resolution, any intervention would be unlawful."
In short, the Turkish opposition will be free to dissociate from any response that Erdogan decides on, especially if things go haywire downstream. Second, aside from an enthusiastic statement of support of Turkey and condemnation of Syria by British Foreign Secretary Hague, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have refrained from taking sides, although Davutoglu spoke to them personally. Everyone is counseling Ankara to show restraint, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Third, Article 4 of the NATO treaty stops short of the explicit mention of possible armed responses cited in Article 5. The NATO countries would know that Turkish aircraft have been repeatedly violating Syrian airspace in the recent weeks and Damascus has now retaliated. The reaction by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was that he was "greatly worried" by the incident and would urge a "thorough investigation"; he then welcomed Turkey's "cool-headed reaction". But the point is, even within Turkey, there is skepticism about what really happened. The veteran Turkish editor Yousuf Kanli wrote:
"Did the plane violate Syrian airspace? ... On the other hand, why was the Turkish reconnaissance plane flying so low, in an area close to a Russian base, and why did it keep on going in and out of Syrian airspace so many times in the 15-minute period before it was downed? Was it testing the air-defense capabilities of Syria (or the Russian base) before an intervention which might come later this year?"
Not many NATO member countries would want to get involved in the obscure fracas. At best, Turkey can expect statements of solidarity, but equally, Damascus would also have estimated carefully that the probability of any concerted NATO action on the ground is low. Fourth, the painful reality is that Turkey's most ardent allies in the present situation, who have encouraged Ankara on the path of intervention in Syria, are of absolutely no use today - Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They are nowhere in a position to engage Syria militarily. Turkey, in short, is left all by itself to hit back at Syria.

Fifth, any Turkish military steps against Syria would be a highly controversial move regionally. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari (who, interestingly, visited Moscow recently for consultations over Syria) voiced the widely held regional opinion when he warned of a "spillover the crisis into neighboring countries", including Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey itself. Finally, the UN has announced the holding of an international conference on Syria next Saturday in Geneva. Besides, Clinton is due to visit Russia early this week and Syria is likely to figure in her talks with Lavrov. Ankara cannot afford to take precipitate steps on the eve of the conference. At any rate, Russia has warned against any foreign intervention in Syria - and that precludes any military move by Turkey.

War by other means

The Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Sunday: "Syria was merely exercising its right and sovereign duty and defense. There is no enmity between Syria and Turkey, but political tension [exists] between the two countries. What happened was an accident and not an assault as some like to say, because the plane was shot while it was in Syrian airspace and flew over Syrian territorial waters." The taunt is a bitter pill to swallow for a sultan. Ankara now claims it has radio intercepts to show that the order to shoot down the aircraft came from Damascus knowing fully well it had a Turkish flag while on a "a routine training flight and undertaking a national radar-system test in respect of national security over recent developments on the Mediterranean coast".

Erdogan has had time before Tuesday's meeting to finesse some vaziyeti kurtaran bahane (which translates from Turkish as "face-saving excuse") to maintain his dignity and prestige in front of the parliament and the nation. But then, this is a shame he brought down on himself, since all protagonists would know that the Turkish jet was undertaking a risky mission off the Russian naval base of Tartus. The influential Turkish commentator Murat Yetkin wrote on Monday, "It is clear that the incident will result in increased pressure on Syria and its supporters, mainly Russia. But what Bashar al-Assad cares for seems to be keeping his chair and the Russian naval base in Tartus strong, whatever the cost, also knowing that neither the Turkish government, nor the opposition and people, want war."

Yetkin was sure that "Turkey will do everything to make Syria pay for the attack", but "payment doesn't mean war, there are other options". In reality, Damascus has put a double whammy on Turkey. It not only lost a Phantom and its two pilots but is now under compulsion to take the loss calmly, exercising self-restraint.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NF26Ak02.html

C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition

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A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers. The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.

The clandestine intelligence-gathering effort is the most detailed known instance of the limited American support for the military campaign against the Syrian government. It is also part of Washington’s attempt to increase the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has recently escalated his government’s deadly crackdown on civilians and the militias battling his rule. With Russia blocking more aggressive steps against the Assad government, the United States and its allies have instead turned to diplomacy and aiding allied efforts to arm the rebels to force Mr. Assad from power.

By helping to vet rebel groups, American intelligence operatives in Turkey hope to learn more about a growing, changing opposition network inside of Syria and to establish new ties. “C.I.A. officers are there and they are trying to make new sources and recruit people,” said one Arab intelligence official who is briefed regularly by American counterparts.

American officials and retired C.I.A. officials said the administration was also weighing additional assistance to rebels, like providing satellite imagery and other detailed intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements. The administration is also considering whether to help the opposition set up a rudimentary intelligence service. But no decisions have been made on those measures or even more aggressive steps, like sending C.I.A. officers into Syria itself, they said.

The struggle inside Syria has the potential to intensify significantly in coming months as powerful new weapons are flowing to both the Syrian government and opposition fighters. President Obama and his top aides are seeking to pressure Russia to curb arms shipments like attack helicopters to Syria, its main ally in the Middle East.

“We’d like to see arms sales to the Assad regime come to an end, because we believe they’ve demonstrated that they will only use their military against their own civilian population,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said after Mr. Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, met in Mexico on Monday.

Spokesmen for the White House, State Department and C.I.A. would not comment on any intelligence operations supporting the Syrian rebels, some details of which were reported last week by The Wall Street Journal. Until now, the public face of the administration’s Syria policy has largely been diplomacy and humanitarian aid. The State Department said Wednesday that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would meet with her Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, on the sidelines of a meeting of Asia-Pacific foreign ministers in St. Petersburg, Russia, next Thursday. The private talks are likely to focus, at least in part, on the crisis in Syria.

The State Department has authorized $15 million in nonlethal aid, like medical supplies and communications equipment, to civilian opposition groups in Syria. The Pentagon continues to fine-tune a range of military options, after a request from Mr. Obama in early March for such contingency planning. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators at that time that the options under review included humanitarian airlifts, aerial surveillance of the Syrian military, and the establishment of a no-fly zone.

The military has also drawn up plans for how coalition troops would secure Syria’s sizable stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons if an all-out civil war threatened their security. But senior administration officials have underscored in recent days that they are not actively considering military options. “Anything at this point vis-à-vis Syria would be hypothetical in the extreme,” General Dempsey told reporters this month.

What has changed since March is an influx of weapons and ammunition to the rebels. The increasingly fierce air and artillery assaults by the government are intended to counter improved coordination, tactics and weaponry among the opposition forces, according to members of the Syrian National Council and other activists.

Last month, these activists said, Turkish Army vehicles delivered antitank weaponry to the border, where it was then smuggled into Syria. Turkey has repeatedly denied it was extending anything other than humanitarian aid to the opposition, mostly via refugee camps near the border. The United States, these activists said, was consulted about these weapons transfers.

American military analysts offered mixed opinions on whether these arms have offset the advantages held by the militarily superior Syrian Army. “The rebels are starting to crack the code on how to take out tanks,” said Joseph Holliday, a former United States Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan who is now a researcher tracking the Free Syrian Army for the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.

But a senior American officer who receives classified intelligence reports from the region, compared the rebels’ arms to “peashooters” against the government’s heavy weaponry and attack helicopters. The Syrian National Council, the main opposition group in exile, has recently begun trying to organize the scattered, localized units that all fight under the name of the Free Syrian Army into a more cohesive force.

About 10 military coordinating councils in provinces across the country are now sharing tactics and other information. The city of Homs is the notable exception. It lacks such a council because the three main military groups in the city do not get along, national council officials said.

Jeffrey White, a defense analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who tracks videos and announcements from self-described rebel battalions, said there were now about 100 rebel formations, up from roughly 70 two months ago, ranging in size from a handful of fighters to a couple of hundred combatants. “When the regime wants to go someplace and puts the right package of forces together, it can do it,” Mr. White said. “But the opposition is raising the cost of those kinds of operations.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html?exprod=myyahoo

Report: Russia to Send Marines to Syria

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Two Russian navy ships are completing preparations to sail to Syria with a unit of marines on a mission to protect Russian citizens and the nation's base there, a news report said Monday. The deployment appears to reflect Moscow's growing concern about Syrian President Bashar Assad's future. The Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified Russian navy official as saying that the two amphibious landing vessels, Nikolai Filchenkov and Caesar Kunikov, will be heading shortly to the Syrian port of Tartus, but didn't give a precise date.

The official said the ships will carry an unspecified number of marines to protect Russians in Syria and evacuate some equipment from Tartus, if necessary. Each ship is capable of carrying up to 300 marines and a dozen tanks, according to Russian media reports. That would make it the largest known Russian troop deployment to Syria, signaling that Moscow is becoming increasingly uneasy about Syria's slide toward civil war.

Interfax also quoted a deputy Russian air force chief as saying that Russia will give the necessary protection to its citizens in Syria. "We must protect our citizens," Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Gradusov was quoted as saying. "We won't abandon the Russians and will evacuate them from the conflict zone, if necessary." Asked whether the air force would provide air support for the navy squadron, Gradusov said they will act on orders. The Defense Ministry had no immediate comment, and an official at the Black Sea fleet declined to comment.

Asked if the Pentagon is concerned about the plan, officials in Washington said it depends on the mission. They had no comment on the stated goal of protecting Russian citizens and the Russian military position there, something the U.S. would do in a foreign country if in a similar situation. "I think we'd leave it to the Russian Ministry of Defense to speak to their naval movements and their national security decision-making process," said Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, adding that it's not the business of the U.S. Defense Department to "endorse or disapprove of an internal mission like that."

What would greatly concern the U.S., he said, is if the Russian naval ships were taking weapons or sending people to support the Assad regime in its crackdown. "The secretary of defense (Leon Panetta) remains concerned about any efforts by external countries or external organizations to supply lethal arms to the Syrian regime so that they can turn around and use those to kill their own people," Kirby said.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/report-russia-send-marines-syria-144713980.html

Syria Crisis and Putin’s Return Chill U.S. Ties With Russia



Sitting beside President Obama this spring, the president of Russia gushed that “these were perhaps the best three years of relations between Russia and the United States over the last decade.” Two and a half months later, those halcyon days of friendship look like a distant memory. Gone is Dmitri A. Medvedev, the optimistic president who collaborated with Mr. Obama and celebrated their partnership in March. In his place is Vladimir V. Putin, the grim former K.G.B. colonel whose return to the Kremlin has ushered in a frostier relationship freighted by an impasse over Syria and complicated by fractious domestic politics in both countries.

The back-and-forth this week over Russian support for Syria’s government as it tries to crush an uprising underscored the limits of Mr. Obama’s ability to “reset” ties with Moscow. He signed an arms control treaty with Mr. Medvedev, expanded supply lines to Afghanistan through Russian territory, secured Moscow’s support for sanctions on Iran and helped bring Russia into the World Trade Organization. But officials in both capitals noted this week that the two countries still operated on fundamentally different sets of values and interests.

The souring relations come as Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin are preparing to meet for the first time as presidents next week on the sidelines of a summit meeting in Mexico. With Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, saying Wednesday that Mr. Obama’s Russia policy “has clearly failed,” and Mr. Putin stoking anti-American sentiment in response to street protests in Moscow, the Mexico meeting may be a test of whether the reset has run its course.

“We were already at a place with the Russians where we were about to move to a new phase,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama. “A lot of this is can we continue to build on the initial steps we’ve taken with the Russians even as we’ve had differences emerge, most notably on Syria.”

Others see the situation more pessimistically. “There is a crisis in the Russian-American relationship,” said Aleksei K. Pushkov, the hawkish head of Russia’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee. “It is a crisis when the sides have to balance their interests but they cannot do so because their interests diverge. It is developing into some kind of long-term mistrust.”

Signs of that divergence seem increasingly pronounced lately, despite private reassurances from Mr. Putin that he wants to deepen ties. Michael A. McFaul, a former Russia adviser to Mr. Obama, has been subjected to an unusual campaign of public harassment since arriving in Moscow as ambassador. A Russian general threatened pre-emptive strikes against American missile defense sites in Poland in the event of a crisis. Mr. Putin has cracked down on demonstrations while blaming Americans for them, and he skipped the Group of 8 summit meeting hosted by Mr. Obama last month.

“The reset failed to change the underlying suspicion and distrust of America shared by a majority of Russians as well as Putin himself,” said Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “America is seen as a threat, an agent seeking to undermine Russia, to weaken it, to do harm to it. Russia always has to be on the alert, on the defensive.”

Adding to the tension have been moves in Congress to block visas and freeze assets of Russians implicated in human rights abuses. The bipartisan legislation, named for Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer whose corruption investigation led to his death in prison, passed a House committee last week and will be taken up by a Senate panel next week.

“I see this as part of an effort to make clear the expected international conduct as it relates to human rights,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, a Maryland Democrat sponsoring the legislation. “This is what friends do. We point out when you need to do better.”

The Obama administration, seeking to avoid a rupture, opposes the bill on the grounds that the State Department has already banned visas for Russians implicated in Mr. Magnitsky’s death. Instead, the administration is highlighting legislation introduced on Tuesday to repeal decades-old trade restrictions on Russia known as Jackson-Vanik.

On Tuesday, hours after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accused Russia of supplying attack helicopters to Syria, she sent an under secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, to a Russia Day reception at the Russian Embassy in Washington, where she pointed to the proposed Jackson-Vanik repeal and talked about “mutual respect,” with no explicit mention of Syria.

The complication for Mr. Obama is that lawmakers like Mr. Cardin and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, want to link the Jackson-Vanik repeal to the Magnitsky legislation, angering Russian officials, who were shocked to learn that the White House apparently cannot block it. Mr. Putin was already upset at even the administration’s mild criticism of his domestic crackdown; Mr. Pushkov said the Kremlin viewed that to “not be very loyal.”

Mr. Obama is focusing on enlisting Russia’s help on issues like stopping Iran from building nuclear weapons. The next round of talks between Iran and international powers opens in Moscow next week, and the administration hopes that Russia’s role as host will prompt it to use its influence with Tehran to extract more concessions. One of the biggest successes of the reset, however, has also made the United States more dependent on Russia. With Pakistan cutting off supply lines to Afghanistan, the so-called northern distribution network through Russia is the primary reinforcement route for America’s war on the Taliban.

“We need more from them than they need from us at the moment,” said Angela E. Stent, director of Russian studies at Georgetown University. The Russians are less invested than Mr. Obama in the notion of a reset. “They look at that as an American course correction. But it’s not their policy, it’s an American policy,” Ms. Stent said.

Publicly, the administration rejects any connection between Syria and the Afghan supply route. But, privately, officials worry that Russia will try to use the leverage provided by the supply route. So far, Russian officials have reassured their American counterparts that they will not. If anything, Moscow worries that the United States is pulling out of Afghanistan too soon, fearing a security collapse near Russia’s southern flank.

For Mr. Obama, who considers improved ties with Russia one of his signature accomplishments, the question is whether the current friction is temporary or is a sign that the reset has accomplished what it can. The coming meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, could prove uncomfortable for Mr. Obama. The first time the two men met, in July 2009, when Mr. Putin was prime minister, Mr. Putin delivered an hourlong harangue about the United States.

“The president’s going to be yearning for the days of meetings with Dima,” said David J. Kramer, an official in the George W. Bush administration, using Mr. Medvedev’s nickname. “It probably won’t be a pretty meeting. And it shouldn’t be a pretty meeting.”

Source: www.nytimes.com/2012/06/14/world/europe/putins-return-brings-rapid-chill-to-us-russia-ties.html




Russia’s chief arms exporter said Friday that his company was shipping advanced defensive missile systems to Syria that could be used to shoot down airplanes or sink ships if the United States or other nations try to intervene to halt the country’s spiral of violence. “I would like to say these mechanisms are really a good means of defense, a reliable defense against attacks from the air or sea,” Anatoly P. Isaykin, the general director of the company, Rosoboronexport, said Friday in an interview. “This is not a threat, but whoever is planning an attack should think about this.”

As the weapons systems are not considered cutting edge, Mr. Isaykin’s disclosures carried greater symbolic import than military significance. They contributed to a cold war chill that has been settling over relations between Washington and Moscow ahead a meeting between President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin, their first, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos next week.

Mr. Isaykin’s remarks come just days after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised diplomatic pressure on Russia, Syria’s patron, by criticizing the Kremlin for sending attack helicopters to Damascus, and amid reports that Moscow was preparing to send an amphibious landing vessel and a small company of marines to the Syrian port of Tartus, to provide security for military installations and infrastructure, if it becomes necessary.

George Little, a Defense Department spokesman, declined to comment on Mr. Isaykin’s remarks. Aleksander Golts, an independent military analyst in Moscow, said the Russians’ discussion of defensive weapons shipments “undoubtedly” serves as a warning to Western countries contemplating an intervention. “Russia uses these statements as a form of deterrence in Syria,” he said. “They show other countries that they are more likely to suffer losses.”

Throughout the Syrian crisis, Russia has insisted that all its arms sales to the isolated government of President Bashar al-Assad have been defensive in nature, and that the weapons were not being used in the Syrian leader’s violent campaign to suppress the opposition. Mr. Isaykin underlined the point, but in a way that could also be interpreted as a warning to the West against undertaking military action of the sort that ousted Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from power in Libya. Mr. Putin viewed that action as a breach of sovereignty that he does not want repeated.

Yet, as news reports of government massacres emerge almost daily from Syria, the prospect of the United States or NATO acting unilaterally has become a more frequently discussed option, particularly given Russia’s adamant refusal to authorize more aggressive United Nations action.

Mr. Isaykin, a powerful figure in Russia’s military industry, openly discussed the weapons being shipped to Syria: the Pantsyr-S1, a radar-guided missile and artillery system capable of hitting warplanes at altitudes well above those typically flown during bombing sorties, and up to 12 miles away; Buk-M2 antiaircraft missiles, capable of striking airplanes at even higher altitudes, up to 82,000 feet, and at longer ranges; and land-based Bastion antiship missiles that can fire at targets 180 miles from the coast.

Military analysts immediately questioned the effectiveness of the air defenses Russia has made available to nations in the Middle East, including Syria, none of which have offered even token resistance to Western forces.

Ruslan Aliyev, an authority on military affairs at the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, said that statements by Mr. Isaykin and others were issued principally for political effect. Moscow has declined to supply Syria with its most lethal air defense, the S-300 long-range missile system. “As far as I understand, Syria is not able to defend itself from NATO, just like it failed to defend its nuclear facility from Israel’s September 2007 airstrike,” Mr. Aliyev wrote in an e-mailed response to questions. “Russian armaments are unlikely to be significantly helpful, I’m afraid.”

Since Mrs. Clinton’s statement, both sides have sought to play down the helicopters’ significance, saying they were of marginal use militarily. A State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said Thursday that the secretary of state was referring to three helicopters that were returned recently to Syria after being refurbished in Russia. In the interview, Mr. Isaykin said that the contract to overhaul the helicopters was signed in 2008, was never secret and had been reported to international organizations. “It was an absolutely routine contract,” he said.

Syria has spent about $500 million annually in recent years on Russian weaponry, Mr. Isaykin said in the interview, an order book that amounts to about 5 percent of Rosoboronexport’s business. For nearly a decade, Mr. Isaykin said, Rosoboronexport has had no Syrian orders for rifles, ammunition, ground-to-ground rockets, helicopters and their onboard weapons or armored vehicles — the basic tools of a conflict that is escalating into civil war.

The Middle East, he said, is “flooded” with Soviet-style small arms, often made in knockoff versions by the Chinese or Eastern Europeans, elbowing Russia out of this market. The Russian arms trade business with Syria has depended in recent years on large and complex antiaircraft systems. They violate no United Nations sanctions, he said, and cannot be used against civilians in a domestic conflict. “We just send them to Syria,” he said. “Ask the Syrians where they put them.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/16/world/europe/russia-sending-air-and-sea-defenses-to-syria.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

Heavier Weapons Push Syrian Crisis Toward Civil War

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With evidence that powerful new weapons are flowing to both the Syrian government and opposition fighters, the bloody uprising in Syria has thrust the Obama administration into an increasingly difficult position as the conflict shows signs of mutating into a full-fledged civil war. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Tuesday that the United States believed that Russia was shipping attack helicopters to Syria that President Bashar al-Assad could use to escalate his government’s deadly crackdown on civilians and the militias battling his rule. Her comments reflected rising frustration with Russia, which has continued to supply weapons to its major Middle Eastern ally despite an international outcry over the government’s brutal crackdown.

“We have confronted the Russians about stopping their continued arms shipments to Syria,” Mrs. Clinton said at an appearance with President Shimon Peres of Israel. “They have, from time to time, said that we shouldn’t worry; everything they’re shipping is unrelated to their actions internally. That’s patently untrue.”

Russia insists that it provides Damascus only with weapons that can be used in self-defense. As fighting intensified across Syria, there were reports that government forces were using helicopters to fire on a rebel-held enclave in the northwestern part of the country. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, reported that more than 60 people had been killed in the fighting, one-third of them government soldiers, while the United Nations released a report saying that Syrians as young as 8 had been deployed by government soldiers and pro-government militia members as human shields.

The fierce government assaults from the air are partly a response to improved tactics and weaponry among the opposition forces, which have recently received more powerful antitank missiles from Turkey, with the financial support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, according to members of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition group in exile, and other activists. The United States, these activists said, was consulted about these weapons transfers. Officials in Washington said the United States did not take part in arms shipments to the rebels, though they recognized that Syria’s neighbors would do so, and that it was important to ensure that weapons did not end up in the hands of Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

The increased ferocity of the attacks and the more lethal weapons on both sides threatened to overwhelm diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. Kofi Annan, the special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League, continued to pressure Damascus to halt the violence and to respect a cease-fire. But Mrs. Clinton said that if Mr. Assad did not stop the violence by mid-July, the United Nations would have little choice but to end its observer mission in the country.

Mrs. Clinton, State Department officials said, continues to push for a “managed transition,” under which Mr. Assad would step aside. Russia’s role is viewed as critical, however, and Mrs. Clinton’s claims about helicopter shipments are certain to increase tensions with Moscow less than a week before President Obama is scheduled to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin at a summit meeting in Mexico.

Administration officials declined to give details about the helicopters, saying the information was classified. But Pentagon sources suggested that Mrs. Clinton, in her remarks at a Brookings Institution event, was referring to a Russian-made attack helicopter that Syria already owns but has not yet deployed to crack down on opposition forces. While these helicopters, known as Mi-24s, are flown by Syrian pilots, Russia supplies spare parts and provides maintenance for them.

A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, said the precise status of the helicopters was not as important as the violence being directed against opponents of the Syrian government. “The focus really needs to be more on what the Assad regime is doing to its own people than the cabinets and the closets to which they turn to pull stuff out.” Captain Kirby said. “It’s really about what they’re doing with what they’ve got in their hand.”

The use of helicopters is contributing to a growing sense that, as Hervé Ladsous, the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, put it, the fighting could be characterized as a civil war. “The government of Syria lost some large chunks of territories and several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas,” Mr. Ladsous said at the United Nations. “So now we have confirmed reports not only of the use of tanks and artillery, but also attack helicopters.” Opposition leaders are wary of the term civil war because it suggests that the conflict is somehow an even match.

“Civil war will not come suddenly in one day or two or five, but you have to look how things are gradually changing on the ground,” said Samir Nachar, a member of the executive committee of the Syrian National Council. “Can you say to people, ‘Don’t defend yourselves?’ It is impossible.”

Council members on Tuesday were also wary of reading too much into Mrs. Clinton’s claim, suggesting that it was an open secret for months that the Russians were supplying weapons to Syria. There have been repeated reports of Russian armament ships docking in Syria, although Moscow has always denied that they were carrying the arms used to suppress the protests. Speaking in Istanbul, council members also described efforts to supply the opposition with arms, specifically antitank weaponry delivered by Turkish Army vehicles to the Syrian border, where it was then transferred to smugglers who took it into Syria.

Turkey has repeatedly denied that it is giving anything other than humanitarian aid to the opposition, mostly at refugee camps near the border. It has recently made those camps harder to visit: permission was not granted to two reporters in the vicinity for five days last week. Turkey did not act alone, but with financial support from Qatar and Saudi Arabia and after consultation with the United States, said these officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the subject’s diplomatic delicacy.

The more powerful weapons have been delivered as far south as the suburbs of Damascus, but not into Damascus itself, they said. The presence of the antitank missiles seems to have made government forces hesitant to move their tanks around urban centers, according to sources in the Syrian National Council. But they have done nothing to stem the violence. On Tuesday, a team of United Nations cease-fire monitors retreated before reaching Al Heffa in the northwest, when hostile crowds struck their vehicles with stones and metal rods, said a spokeswoman, Sausan Ghosheh.

“The shelling has been continuous,” said Houran al-Hafawi, a member of the local coordination committee of Al Heffa. “The Syrian Army is throwing missiles and rockets from helicopter and rocket launchers from the eastern and western entrances.”

For the Pentagon, the debate over Russia’s rearming of Syria took an odd twist on Tuesday when Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, complained that the United States military was buying attack helicopters for Afghan security forces from the same Russian weapons company supplying the Assad government.

George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, defended the purchases of the Mi-17 helicopters from the Russian company, Rosoboronexport, as important to helping Afghanistan create a credible self-defense force, and said the issue was separate from the concern over arms shipments to Syria that were used by the government to kill civilians. “It’s about equipping the Afghan air force with what they need to ensure that they have the capabilities from an air standpoint to defend themselves,” Mr. Little said.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/world/middleeast/violence-in-syria-continues-as-protesters-killed.html?pagewanted=all

America’s CIA spies, Britain and France aiding Syria

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CIA spies have met Syrian rebels to discuss their required weapons, military strategies and the “dirty war” that the insurgents are fighting supported by the US, Britain and France, says an analyst. The comment comes as according to a New York Times report published on Thursday, some US and Arab intelligence officials say a group of “CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey” and that the agents are helping the anti-Syria governments decide which gangs inside the Arab country will “receive arms to fight the Syrian government.” “CIA officers are there and they are trying to make new sources and recruit people,” said one of the Arab officials, whose name was not mentioned in the report.

The arms include automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and antitank weapons, which are being transported “mostly across the Turkish border,” the report said. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar pay for the transport of the weaponry into Syria, according to the US and Arab intelligence officials cited in the report. The CIA spies have been in southern Turkey for the past several weeks and Washington is also considering providing the armed gangs with “satellite imagery and other detailed intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements,” the report adds.

This as Syria has been the scene of violence since March 2011. Many people, including security forces, have lost their lives in the unrest. The West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of killing the protesters. But Damascus blames ''outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups'' for the unrest, stating that it is being orchestrated from abroad. Press TV has conducted an interview with political commentator, Sukant Chandan, to further shed light on the issue. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: Sukant Chandan, how do you explain claims of “diplomacy” from the United States when it comes to Kofi Anan’s peace plan but then reports like the one in the New York Times surfaces pointing to the CIA in addition to Washington’s allies in the region for aiding armed groups fighting the Syrian government. Does the US have any interest to support Anan’s peace plan or is the claim sort of a political ploy?

Chandan: The Western white power structure has one aim which is to conduct regime change against any state in the Global South which poses any type of obstacle to its total domination of the world. I mean it’s high time that the empire admitted through the New York Times that the CIA officers have been directing and arming the Syrian rebels which, you know, let’s be honest with ourselves if anyone understands a little bit of the nature of the West we know that they’re up to this all the time and we don’t need them to admit it.

But once they’ve admitted it, we know that they’ve been up to this for a long, long time when the former US ambassador Mr. Ford - for Syria that is- was on the demonstrations when this rebellion first took place in the first days and weeks. Who is Mr. Ford; Mr. Ford is the protégé of Mr. Negroponte. Who is Negroponte; he is the arch designer of the contra dirty war in Latin America.

So when Mr. Ford has been meeting the rebels and CIA officers are meeting the rebels, they’re discussing what type of weapons to give the rebels and what type of military strategy to conduct and knowing the type of dirty war that these people get up to we know that the United States along with Britain and France are encouraging and probably training [the rebels].
Don’t forget it was in Scotland that the British state trained the Mujahidin to fight the Soviets and the [People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan] PDPA government back in the 80s fast forward to today we’re seeing a tragic rerun of a similar type of dynamic that took place in Afghanistan today in Syria, where you have a state backed by the Global South, particularly Russia and China that’s supporting Syria on the other hand you have imperialism arming and training and financing these terrorists for regime change.
So it’s all in the open and no one should be confused about the situation, it’s all very clear you have a clear polarization of forces, on the one hand you have the empire, the Western white power structure whatever you want to call it allied directly with Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the state of Israel.

Don’t forget Shimon Peres himself said just very recently, a few days ago that he would wish that the Syrian rebels would win. So on one side you have these forces on the other side you have the forces for independence and progress for the people of the world, led by Russia and China and the Syrian government and their allies. So the situation is very clear and I’m really quite disturbed by how too many people out there are still befuddled or taking this nonsensical third way or neutral position as [South African activist and retired Anglican bishop] Desmond Tutu said and he’s not my favorite progressive character but as he said if you’re neutral in a situation of oppression then you’re siding with the oppressor and that’s what’s going on.

Press TV:
Let’s go back to our guest in London Mr. Chandan you were shaking your head there when Mr. Korb was giving his answer let’s relate one of his talks to you. Do you agree first of all with Mr. Korb that the United States is trying to prevent arms from reaching al Qaeda forces if they are in Syria and add anything if you have to the comments made by Mr. Korb.


Chandan: It’s incredible how history developed. I mean our friend from the United States is either so naive to not understand the system of governance and world domination of his government or he is a trickster frankly. I mean now today you can become a Jihadist and go fight against the Syrian regime or against Gaddafi’s regime yesterday and you’ll be promoted and celebrated in the mainstream media in the West. It’s all very clear what’s going on. I mean you know the United States and Britain and France are constantly conducting covert regime change against the whole Global South.

This is what the state of the West is all about.
Just recently today you can read how the United States is putting pressure on stopping a report showing a report that Rwanda, its proxy in Africa, is involved in destabilization against the Democratic Republic of Congo which if Congo becomes independent in alliance with China will lift Africa and smash US domination and British domination in that region. So it’s clear what the nature of this state is all about. I mean again the way the West is dealing with al Qaeda is very interesting, because it’s obviously purging al Qaeda of those elements which it sees too problematic to its interests and then promoting other elements of al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda is very active in Libya and they always have been since the beginning of the uprising and before when the Libyan Islamic fighting group was one of the main organizations supported by the CIA and the MI6 and the French intelligent service against Gaddafi’s regime. It’s all on record. It’s all on the open and it’s very important that our people raise their voices, organize themselves and are really rigorous and assertive in struggling for peace and development of the countries of the Global South.

Press TV: Mr. Chandan in London some observers critical of Turkey‘s role in Syria are saying that it is acting as a proxy for the US and NATO. How do you perceive that and in addition to that do you have anything to add to what Mr. Korb just said?

Chandan: In response to Mr. Korb it’s a typical strategy of the white man to project all issues of oppression that’s actually coming from the White power structure onto the natives and onto the brown and black people i. e. you know the white power structure is absolutely, you know, innocent of any wrong doing and it’s these silly Africans and these silly Asians and these silly Arabs who are creating all the mess and all the problems.
The interesting thing in that regard with Libya and now with Syria is that the West don’t want to put any of their boots officially on the ground but obviously in the first days of the Libyan uprising the British SAS were in Benghazi and they got sprung because the telephone conversation between the former British ambassador to Libya and the head of the NTC their phone conversation was exposed by Gaddafi’s regime and similarly in Syria.
They don’t want to put official boots on the ground in Syria so they are sending covert agents to do all the dirty work because they want to give the impression to the rest of the world: hey we’re the good guys and if any dirty business is going on it’s these crazy natives and on the issue of the Arab Spring as well that this befuddling of minds about what to lose in Egypt is all about. Tunisia has broken relations with the Asad regime and the Muslim Brotherhood which it seems to be in the ascendancy for the time being is against the Assad regime. Their comrades in Syria are absolutely involved in the insurgency against the Assad regime there.

On the issue of Turkey, it’s a similar thing actually and it’s a great shame that the Turkish state has strategically decided not to side with the Global South but it sees its interests for the time being and it’s a very narrow strategy that it’s employing and it’s going to go nowhere because, you know, anyone who dances with the devil will find that the devil will stab them in the back in the not too distant future. So really it’s not even in Turkey’s national interest to go along with NATO as it did with Libya and now with Syria...


Press TV: You seemed a bit anxious there to get a response to what Mr. Korb was saying please go ahead with that and also do you think that with so many external factors, this can be a Syrian-led effort to end the unrest?

Chandan: It’s amazing. I don’t know what world Mr. Korb is living in. You know the Americans don’t want to get involved with anyone; the British don’t want to get involved.

Korb: Wait a second I don’t attack you personally...I’m living in the real world, you’re not. Don’t attack me personally.

Chandan:...the establishments in Britain, France and the United States are constantly planning wars. Mr. Corb himself constantly talked about the pivot to Asia. Is that not a war plan? Of course it’s a war plan. I mean it’s total nonsense what Mr. Korb is coming out with but. But in terms of the internal Syrian situation we need to- I’ve said many times before, I’ll say it again, the Global South needs to assert itself and take the initiative. We lost Libya- that was devastating. We didn’t take enough initiatives, meaningful initiatives whereas Latin America- I’m loyal to all of our Global South and Latin America politically is the most advanced. It needs to be making moves to rediscover the regime change...

Source: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/06/22/247414/cia-uk-france-aiding-syrian-rebels/

Putin’s Russia Has a Interest in Syria

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The arguments between a West and Russia over what to do in Syria resemble a aged motto of a dual bald group arguing over a comb. In truth, conjunction side knows what to do. Both, however, respond to their miss of a devise in their normal fashion: Russia, with stonewalling; a West, with dull rhetoric. The West is right to trust that a Baath regime in Syria can't continue in energy though unconstrained savagery, and that an concluded depart of Al Assad dynasty is severely to be desired. Russia is right to fear that a tumble competence lead to an even worse regime and a calamity for Syria’s minorities.

However unpalatable this competence be to Washington, a Kremlin is also scold in arguing that if there is to be any possibility of an general understanding over Syria working, afterwards Iran has to be partial of it. This is since of Tehran’s tighten ties with a Syrian regime and since Iran has a legitimate interest in a destiny of a quasi-Shiite, Alawite minority.

When listening to Washington and Paris on Syria, it is value remembering US and French process towards their fan Algeria in a 1990s, when a troops cancelled a approved choosing and intent in a inhuman debate of hang-up opposite a Islamist victors, heading to some-more than 150,000 deaths. There was no doubt afterwards of a West isolating or inserted in Algeria.

This record casts an mocking light on benefaction western rhetoric. Perhaps before Hillary Clinton called Russia and China “despicable” for hostile general movement over Syria, she competence have taken a discerning demeanour in a chronological mirror. It also does not assistance that Clinton publicly indicted Russia of offered conflict helicopters to Syria, usually for US officials to acknowledge secretly that she deliberately farfetched a explain to put vigour on Moscow. Is this ostensible to boost mutual honour and confidence?

The box of Syria is of good tellurian and geopolitical significance in itself, and has critical implications for a wider emanate of a West’s family with Russia. Sections of western opinion are intent in another spin of mad tongue opposite a Putin administration, especially since of a semi-authoritarianism, though with Syria provision additional ammunition. This is by no means unconditionally unjustified, given some of a unpleasant aspects of a Russian state, though it needs to be qualified.

As both Russia’s choosing formula and a combination of a antithesis demonstrations make clear, an strenuous infancy of Russians support a reduction of nationalists and Soviet loyalists. Even if they are ill of a crime of a elites, many are not going to opinion for pro-western liberals. This underlying Russian existence — and a comparatively good opening of a economy underneath Vladimir Putin’s discreet government — not usually gives a Putin administration residual strength, it also means that in a doubtful eventuality that it fell, Russian unfamiliar process would not change by one iota.

The West needs to find compromises with Russia in partial since a West is weaker than it was. Among other things, a thought of Nato and EU membership for Georgia and Ukraine, or even any significantly extended partnership, is dead. This in spin requires a change in Western process from enlargement vis a vis Russia to a plan of jointly containing crises: for example, a genuine risk of a new Armenian-Azeri fight over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Current developments advise dual other things: that if we wish western democracy to keep a tellurian influence, we need to work urgently on improving a opening during home; and that a universe will in destiny have a comparison not usually of good powers though also of domestic systems. So, if there is to be any possibility of general cooperation, we contingency learn to provide any others’ systems with respect. Talks with Russia and China over Syria would be a good place to begin.

— Financial Times

Anatol Lieven is a highbrow in a War Studies Department of King’s College London and author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism

Source: http://timesofnews.co/2012/06/21/putins-russia-has-a-stake-in-syria

Russia Plans to Keep Syrian Base – Navy Chief

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Russia is not planning to abandon its Mediterranean naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, the commander in chief of the Russian Navy has announced. “We need this base, it is functioning and it will keep on functioning further,” the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov as saying. The admiral added that Russia needed the base to supply its navy ships on combat duty in the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Aden and in the Indian Ocean. Russia has had the supply base in the Syrian port of Tartus since Soviet times. It is not a full-fledged military base, but there are about 50 servicemen permanently stationed at the port and a special vessel for ship repairs. Earlier this month Russian news agencies were posting conflicting reports on the developments around the Tartus base. Some said that two amphibious ships and a tugboat were headed towards Syria, while others quoted navy officials denying that those events had transpired. The latest Russian mission in the area involved an Iman tanker with an anti-terrorist team on board sailing through this past May. Russia also planned a patrol of the Syrian coast by the Moscow missile-carrying cruiser in May, but those plans were ultimately canceled. A Russian cargo vessel allegedly carrying weapons and military supplies pulled into Tartus on May 26. Russia refuted claims the ship had brought in weapons that could be used against the Syrian opposition, saying that it was only providing President Assad with defensive armaments.

Source: http://rt.com/politics/russia-plans-syrian-base-670/

Russia Reflags Syria Arms Ship

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A Russian ship purportedly carrying helicopter gunships to Syria, which was forced to return to port, will now operate under a Russian flag, the ship’s owner, Femco, said on Monday. Femco said that was necessary “in order to protect its interests, the security of the ship and its crew, all of whom are Russian citizens.” The company said the MV Alaed's final destination was the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok. The MV Alaed, sailing under the Curaçao flag, had to return to the northern port of Murmansk last week after its British insurers pulled their coverage as it rounded the coast of Scotland. Femco declined to comment on "the nature of the cargo on board." Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday the MV Alaed carried overhauled disassembled helicopters to Syria, not gunships, as claimed by Western media, which said the ship carried armaments and ammunition to Syria. The helicopters became the center of a diplomatic row last week, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claiming Russia was supplying weapons that would be used against civilian protesters.


U.S. Hypocrisy on Parade: Washington Arms Bahrain, Denounces Russia For Arming Syria

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It wasn’t that long ago when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syrian President Bashar Assad was a force for reform. Now she is outraged that Russia is allegedly backing Assad with weapons. At the same time, the U.S. is arming the government of Bahrain, which oppresses its Shia majority. Duplicity and hypocrisy may be inevitable in diplomacy. However, ostentatious duplicity and hypocrisy are not. Sanctimoniously denouncing Moscow for behaving like Washington tarnishes America’s image abroad.

Syria is a horrid tragedy, an incipient civil war as the majority of people attempts to oust a family dictatorship. Unlike Libya, however, a substantial segment of the population either supports Assad or opposes a revolution which could result in a vengeful, violent spree against ethnic and religious minorities. No outcome looks good and there is little Washington can do to prevent more violence.

Moreover, the U.S. has no security interest, let alone one of any importance, to warrant military intervention in yet another Muslim and Arab nation. Nor is humanitarianism a good justification. Iraq should banish the illusion that war is a sophisticated tool for engaging in delicate social engineering abroad. With 200,000 or more Iraqis dead as a result of George W. Bush’s “splendid little war,” Barack Obama would be well-advised to keep the troops at home.

Finally, American policymakers should drop their “do as we say, not as we do” international routine. There’s nothing new about one set of Washington diplomats wandering the globe promoting democracy and advancing human rights while another set simultaneously is busy promoting stability and advancing security. That was most evident during the Cold War. The U.S. stood for all that was good and right, except when it came to South Korea, Pakistan, Egypt, Nicaragua, Chile, Zaire, Iran, Somalia, Iraq, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and other Third World dictatorships.

The disappearance of the Soviet Union relieved America of the seeming necessity of trashing its principles in order to save them. Then the so-called global war on terrorism pushed Washington closer to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Central Asian thugocracies. More recently the Obama administration had trouble responding to the Arab Spring since it was invested in Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and comfortable with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

Since then Washington has found its voice against Assad, who conveniently is perceived as a likely loser. President Barack Obama recently declared: “we stand for principles that include universal rights for all people and just political and economic reform.” At the moment when it comes to Syria, anyway.

Even while the administration campaigns against Assad it continues to back Bahrain’s autocracy and the latter’s chief autocratic sponsor, Saudi Arabia. In typical even-handed fashion, American officials have called for restraint on both sides—Bahrainis demonstrating for democracy and Bahrainis shooting those demonstrating for democracy.

No doubt, the situation in Syria is worse than that in Bahrain. And no amount of hypocrisy in Washington can justify the conduct of Damascus. Nevertheless, the Obama administration’s discreditable behavior makes a mockery of the American government’s alleged commitment to democracy and human rights.

Bahrain, like most of the other Gulf States, is essentially a royal dictatorship. A Sunni royalty manipulates the system to advantage the minority Sunni population. The Shia population is disadvantaged and oppressed. Last year the Shiites rose up, only to face ruthless repression by Manama’s rulers, who employed the full power of the state. Peaceful demonstrators were attacked. Scores were killed. Many were arrested, even doctors caring for wounded protestors. The Bahrain Youth Society documented scores of deaths and beatings of demonstrators over the last year. An independent human rights review revealed torture to be a “systematic policy.”

According to the State Department’s latest human rights assessment of Bahrain: “egregious human rights problems reported in 2011 included the inability of citizens to peacefully change their government; the dismissal and expulsion of workers and students for engaging in political activities; the arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands, including medical personnel, human rights activists, and political figures, sometimes leading to their torture and/or death in detention; and the lack of due process.”

That’s not all. The State Department added: “Other significant human rights concerns included arbitrary deprivation of life; detention of prisoners of conscience; reported violations of privacy and restrictions on civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices. In some instances the government imposed and enforced travel bans on political activists.” When it comes to religion, explained State, “the Sunni Muslim citizen population enjoyed favored status, and the Shia population faced discrimination.” And on State went.

Nor did Bahrain’s Shia residents face only Bahraini oppression. The regime naturally blamed local unrest on Iran, without producing any evidence of Tehran’s involvement. However, other Gulf nations, led by Saudi Arabia, sent troops to bolster Bahrain’s royals. The House of Saud is both family kleptocracy and Sunni dictatorship. Riyadh certainly is no friend of human liberty. Noted the latest State Department human rights report: “problems reported included citizens’ lack of the right and legal means to change their government; pervasive restrictions on universal rights such as freedom of expression, including on the Internet, and freedom of assembly, association, movement, and religion; and a lack of equal rights for women and children, as well as for workers.”

Other issues included “torture and other abuses, poor prison and detention center conditions, holding political prisoners and detainees, denial of due process and arbitrary arrest and detention, and arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence.” Given the controls over personal lives, including religious practice, the system is essentially totalitarian. The U.S. went to war with Iraq while allied with Saudi Arabia, but a Christian woman would have been far better off living in Baghdad than Riyadh.

The Saudi royals know they live the good life and are prepared to shed as much blood as necessary to preserve their system. That means stifling the incubus of Shia revolt in next-door Bahrain. Indeed, Riyadh has proposed a quasi-union with its small neighbors, which naturally horrifies Bahrain’s Shiites. Not that Saudi brutality bothers American presidents, who have routinely feted rulers from the House of Saud. Indeed, rarely has the word “democracy” passed the lips of an American diplomat in the presence of a Saudi prince.

Admittedly, Washington was embarrassed by the protests in Bahrain. It tut-tutted about the brutal suppression of democracy protests and said the al-Khalifa royal family should be nicer to the people it was mulcting. Most recently the Obama administration professed itself to be “deeply disappointed” by a Bahraini decision to uphold the earlier conviction of medical personnel for treating protestors: “These convictions appear to be based, at least in part, on the defendants’ criticisms of government actions and policies.” Who would have imagined?

But Bahrain’s King Hamad recently threatened the opposition for “insulting” the army, which is the regime’s primary tool of repression. He announced that “the executive agencies must take the necessary legal measures to deter these violations.” Which, based on past behavior, presumably means arrest, torture, and imprisonment, if not death, for violators. Still, Washington wants to be even-handed. Earlier this month State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “We urge all sides to work together to end the violence and refrain from incitement of any kind.” If only the Shia would stop criticizing the oppressors they might not get shot.

The administration’s dilemma is obvious. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is based in Manama. And the U.S. doesn’t want a little thing like some state-sponsored human rights violations to get in the way of an otherwise beautiful friendship.

However, the U.S. doesn’t stop with acquiescing to the Bahraini royals and their plundering and torturing. Washington is actively strengthening the regime. Last year the Obama administration reluctantly held up in arms sales under congressional pressure. Now Washington is releasing $53 million in “previously notified equipment needed for Bahrain’s external defense and support of 5th Fleet operations.” Other security assistance will remain on hold, at least for now. “Bahrain is an important security partner and ally in a region facing enormous challenges,” explained Nuland.

No matter how the administration attempts to spin its decision, it is seen as an affirmation of the al-Khalafi dictatorship. “You really should be nicer to the people you are oppressing; oh, by the way, here are the weapons you were expecting” is what Manama will hear from Washington. Complained Mohammed al-Maskati, a Bahraini human rights activist: “It’s a direct message that we support the authorities and we don’t support democracy in Bahrain, we don’t support protestors in Bahrain.”

The administration recognizes how its action looks. One unnamed U.S. official told the Christian Science Monitor: “We’ve made this decision mindful of the fact that there remain a number of serious unresolved human rights issues in Bahrain which we expect the government of Bahrain to address.” No doubt, after filling his armory the king will rush to oblige!

Tom Malinowski, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, credited Washington with advocating political reform, but argued “the number one U.S.security interest in Bahrain right now is not making sure they have slightly better F-16 engines, it’s making sure that they implement the reforms needed to make the relationship sustainable over the long-term.”

The revelation of American arms-dealing coincided with the administration’s shrill attack on Moscow for allegedly providing Syria with helicopters. Doing so, said Secretary Clinton, would “escalate the conflict quite dramatically.” She urged Moscow to “cut these military ties completely” since “It is now time for everyone in the international community, including Russia … to speak to Assad in unified voice and insist that the violence stop.

However, the U.S. charges, delivered in Washington’s typically sanctimonious tone, turned out to be false. The choppers were Syrian and had been sent to Russia for repairs. Apparently Moscow has not sold Damascus new helicopters since the 1990s. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his nation was “completing contracts that were signed and paid for a long time ago. All of them are contracts for what are solely air defense systems.”

Nuland attempted to put the best face on Washington’s error by saying that helicopters, new or refurbished, could be used against demonstrators. But an unnamed Pentagon official told the New York Times that the secretary of state was “putting a spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position.” That might have worked before it had become obvious that the government represented by Secretary Clinton was arming the Bahrain royals despite their brutal misbehavior.

Nor is Bahrain the only example. Washington has cheerfully traded American weapons for Saudi cash despite Riyadh’s suppression of human liberty. Egyptis back-sliding from democracy while continuing to collect foreign aid. Much U.S. money goes to the Pakistani military, which is the principal barrier to genuine democracy in Pakistan. Israel is a favored American client even though it continues to rule over millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Washington policymakers rarely let human rights stand in the way of a weapons sale.

Ironically, Russian arms for Damascus might help stop a war. Apparently Moscow has provided Syria with some air and naval defense weapons. The head of Russia’s state arms export agency contended they will help deter an attack on Syria. And Damascus has a far better claim than Bahrain to need defensive weapons. The latter likely would be protected by both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. in the unlikely event of an attack, presumably by Iran. In contrast, influential people in Washington and European capitals are pushing to attack Syria. Obama administration officials even told CNN that the U.S. military had completed plans for intervening in Syria.

The world would be a better place with Bashar Assad and his allies residing in history’s great trash bin. But no one knows who would replace him, and whoever did might not make the world a good place. America’s experience with other foolish military adventures demonstrates that Washington should stay out. The U.S. does not need yet another unnecessary and unpredictable war in the Muslim world.

At the same time, American policymakers should drop their sanctimony. Endless moralizing long has undermined U.S. foreign policy. If Washington intends to arm oppressive regimes, it can’t credibly object when Moscow acts likewise. Including in Syria.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2012/06/18/u-s-hypocrisy-on-parade-washington-arms-bahrain-denounces-russia-for-arming-syria/

Is Syria Becoming a Proxy War Between U.S. and Russia?

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Russian state-owned firms are supplying regime with weapons. The CIA is reportedly helping vet recipients of foreign-provided arms for opposition forces. But this isn't the Cold War. It's present day Syria. Reports surfaced Thursday that a small number of CIA officers have been deployed to southern Turkey to assist U.S. allies with the tough task of deciding which Syrian rebel elements should receive weapons in their fight against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad's loyalist military.

Moscow, a longtime Syrian ally, has provided the country with heavy combat weapons for years. It remains unclear whether Russian officials will bend to Western pressure and cease those shipments as the year-old battle that has killed around 14,000 people wages on. A CIA spokesman declined to directly address allegations that agency personnel are helping to vet rebel factions in order to ensure weapons do not fall into al Qaeda hands. The spokesman did not deny such an effort is underway, but said the original report contained inaccuracies. A Syrian opposition source reached Thursday says "there is no U.S. involvement at this moment."

[Gallery: Fighting in Syria Continues.]

The source says the weapons are being supplied by Washington's regional allies, like Saudi Arabia. What's more, "we are seeing a shift in the Russian position on the ground," the opposition source says. A rebel "military council is distributing military equipment and making sure that is received by the correct people," the opposition source says. "The council makes sure it gets into right hands.

"When U.S. makes that decision" to assist with vetting rebels "other countries will follow," the opposition source says. "But the U.S. has not made that decision."

Still, many in Washington are increasingly uneasy about growing U.S.-Russian tensions. Asked by U.S. News & World Report if the Syrian conflict is becoming a proxy fight between Washington and Moscow, California Republican Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon said: "It sure looks like it's headed in that direction." McKeon, the House Armed Services Committee Chairman, expressed concern about a proxy war, and called for President Barack Obama to explain U.S. goals for Syria.

"We've heard very little from the president about what we should doing there, what our national interests there," McKeon said during a breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington. "I understand the humanitarian part. But my understanding is we don't know who the good guys and bad guys are, who's leading the effort. I don't know who we're arming, if in fact we're arming or helping arm some of the rebels," McKeon said.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a Ranking Member of Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday that Assad appears to be trying to "partition" Syria into three "splintered" regions, and that Moscow could be the major backer of one. "We might end up with one Alawite state supported by and protected by the Russians, and a multiplicity of [ethnically-based regions] across the country." Assad is from the Alawite sect. "This is why a plan must be implemented now," McCain said.

Source: http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/dotmil/2012/06/21/is-syria-becoming-a-proxy-war-between-us-and-russia

Assad's Fall Is In America's Interests

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The world has watched for more than a year as the Assad regime in Syria has been slaughtering innocent civilians. The recent massacre in Houla—including of scores of children—is a reminder of why the United States must step up and lead an aggressive international campaign to hasten Bashar al-Assad's departure from power. Several diplomatic actions are required immediately. Others, especially involving the Syrian opposition, should be incremental and seek to help anti-Assad forces get organized.

One immediately required action is to abandon any wishful thinking that the efforts of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will help the situation, or that Russia's conscience will finally be shocked straight. The U.S. should urge Mr. Annan to condemn Assad and resign his job as envoy so that Syria's regime and other governments can no longer hide behind the facade of his mediation efforts.

Diplomacy doesn't stand a chance in Syria unless the military balance tips against Assad. With Iran and Hezbollah now directly involved in the conflict—sending soldiers and weapons into Syria—the U.S. must stop insisting that arming the opposition will only make the violence worse. The conflict is also attracting jihadis whose presence will only make an eventual reconciliation in Syria that much harder.

To address these problems, the U.S. should work with NATO, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and others to establish safe zones in Turkey and, eventually, in parts of Syria. This will help turn the opposition into a better-organized and viable force. The U.S. can provide valuable aid in the form of food, medicine, communications equipment, intelligence and logistical support.

Our allies in this mission should take the main responsibility for arming and training the most capable and trustworthy rebels now. But the U.S. should make clear that we stand ready to step in and fill key gaps between the rebels' military needs and our allies' capabilities. Empowering and supporting Syria's opposition today will give us our best chance of influencing it tomorrow, to ensure that revenge killings are rare in a post-Assad Syria and that a new government follows a moderate foreign policy.

Also crucial is helping secure Syria's chemical-weapons stockpile, which is the largest in the Middle East and poses a serious proliferation threat. Fostering a post-Assad government-in-waiting will help ensure that a plan is developed to prevent these weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

While we pursue these steps, we should also immediately pass additional sanctions against Assad. Unfortunately, the Democratic majority in the Senate has been reluctant to consider tough new sanctions legislation. I urge Majority Leader Harry Reid to take up the Syria Democracy Transition Act of 2012, which authorizes the president to impose crippling sanctions on the Syrian regime to cut off the financial lifeline that is helping keep Assad afloat.

Then there's the opportunity to assign Robert Ford, our former ambassador in Syria, as the envoy to the Syrian opposition, encouraging him to engage Jordan and Turkey and to lay the groundwork for a relationship with a post-Assad Syrian government. We can also pursue a commercial air embargo on Damascus, whereby no airport should facilitate flights to or from the Syrian capital.

By not pursuing a policy that takes bolder steps to stop Assad and assist the more pro-Western opposition leaders, we prolong this conflict and allow Syria to hurtle toward becoming a radicalized, failed state whose violence will spill over and threaten its neighbors. Such an outcome would damage American interests and delight Iran and Hezbollah.

Barack Obama is not the first president to face difficult choices about dealing with tyrants, and he won't be the last. As the Syrian ordeal reaches new levels of horror, we should take heed of Ronald Reagan's words: "It is a sad, undeniable fact of modern life that wishes are no substitute for national will. And wishful thinking only encourages the tyrants for whom human rights are as easily trampled as protesters in a city square."

America's Syria policy has been all wishful thinking and no national will. It has been based on the false hope that Assad will realize the error of his ways, that Russia and other unreliable nations will change, and that a positive outcome can be attained absent American leadership. Although U.S. policy has been that Assad must go, this demand has not been coupled with action. This devalues America's power and influence in the world, with disastrous and lasting consequences.

Mr. Rubio, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Florida and a member of the Senate's Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014Link24052702303665904577450241196981150.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

9 comments:

  1. One also has to keep in mind the location where the jet was downed is the most single strategic Mediterranean airstrip that will secure an air corridor for Israeli fighter jets to connect into Turkish/Nato airspace and therefore conduct military air strikes via Turkey on Iran's nuclear facilities.

    The situation will most definitely escalate in the following weeks or months. A Nato declared no fly zone (control) is not out of question coupled with rebel attacks on Russian naval base in Tartus.

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  2. If I am not mistaken, the IAF took a similar route several years ago when they attacked a suspected nuclear site deep inside Syrian territory. I see Damascus has closed the defense gap. I realize that the situation will most likely escalate in the coming weeks and months. And one of my concerns is also the fate of the Russian naval installation at Tartus. If they, as you fear, attack the installation in question it then becomes a direct attack on Russia. To reiterate, Moscow's reaction to these provocations is key and crucial. If Syria falls, it will be Iran's turn. If Iran falls, Central Asia will be under direct Western/Islamic/Turkic threat. I have no doubt senior officials in Moscow realize what is going on.

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  3. I hate what West and Turks is doing to Middle East. I am very worried about Armenians of Syria. The Middle East is being emptyied of Armenians and Christians because of them.

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  4. I came across one of your recent comments. I'm sure you wouldn't mind me reposting here. It wasn't difficult figuring out it was you. You have a certain signature that it very recognizable:

    The greatest threat the world has faced, perhaps ever, is the threat emanating from the Anglo-American-Zionist global order and their Turkic and Wahhabist allies. The aforementioned global political/financial/cultural entity is the single greatest threat to: indigenous cultures around the world, the very notion of the nation-state, apostolic Christianity and the family unit. At the end of the day, mankind, including us politically illiterate and hopelessly naive Armenians, will come to the understanding that the great nation of Russia is the world's last hope. Russia today is the last front against American imperialism, NATO expansionism, Globalism, Islamic fundamentalism, Zionism and pan-Turkism. More importantly for us Armenians: No Russia in the Caucasus means no Armenia in the Caucasus. Armenians! Stick as close to the Bear as possible!

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  5. I have repeated different variations of these comments over-and-over again for the last seven years. My intention is to drill it into our heart and minds of our sheeple. Anyway, thank you for taking the trouble of finding it and bringing it here. I posted it on this page as a closing comment.

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  6. Concerned ArmenianJune 28, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    http://www.vidvide.info/5769f99ab.html

    I was surprised today of what I saw, everywhere in the Netherlands there are official posters (commercials) hanging in public places, which are anti-Assad and anti-Putin.

    The last three weeks I have also noticed that there are at least 1 or 2 headlines per day in the Dutch (=European) news coverage, which are anti-Russian. Normally you read negative news about Russia once a week, but now the frequency is amazing (regarding people of the opposition, and every other subject which brings Russia in a negative daylight).

    Propaganda at it's best, how much we have to learn.

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  7. This is a worrying development in my opinion. They may be preparing the sheeple there for an inevitable war. Anti-Russian, anti-Putin hysteria although very common in the Anglo-American-Zionist world took to new heights as of August 2008. Now, not a week passes without a nasty news report about Russia or Putin. It's all a part of their psy-ops and the Western world's controlled mainstream news press is in on the agenda. It's very unfortunate but Holland is fully in-bed with Western powers. With tensions now rising in the Middle East and the Caucasus, what you have noticed may be a part of a coordinated psy-ops campaign. They may be conditioning the sheeple, in case a major war breaks out and Western forces, along side Al-Qaeda terrorists, Wahhabi Islamists and pan-Turkists will have to fight "oppressive" regimes...

    Please keep us informed of new developments.

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  8. He Arevordi, years ago we interacted quite a bit online on exactly the type of issues you bring forth in this blog. You will remember as 'skhara'. Incidentally, I came across this blog when I searched for an older article that I remember you posting on a forum where we exchanged ideas, and found it here.

    Anyway, I want to say that I've really been impressed with Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in the face of the aggression that his country is currently facing. He is on Gaddaffi who was a typical "populist" and "strongman" and exactly the type that the western media like to poke fun of and discredit. They are trying to do it to Assad but he is giving them nothing, nothing to shoot at. Most of the statements coming out of Damascus have been very official and very cool-headed.

    This would be a good article to add to your collection.
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31727

    Assad talks about how over the years these global forces trying to take him out have been attempting to use "soft-power" such as bribery yet their geo-political position towards Iran, Hezbollah, and Palestinian rights have not changed. He adds that Syria was the only AL country that loudly opposed the Lybia action and it was probably the last straw for the arabian kings.

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  9. It's good to hear from you again Skhara! Please monitor this blog for updates and please don't hesitate to express yourself when you feel the need...

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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult for me because I had no assistance from anywhere. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside urged me to keep going; and I did. When Armenia joined the EEU and integrated into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago I finally felt a deep sense of relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my back. And when Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan reemerged in Armenian politics, I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back as I really needed the rest.

Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the internal urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal.

Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say anything if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however moderate the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what readers of this blog have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments. To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what. If you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or just attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself.

Please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Posts in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics. Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you for reading.