The first US-Turkish backed steps for creating safe havens in Syria and possible strategic bombardment of the Syrian army have brought the Middle East close to two dangerous junctures: The Syrian army’s use of chemical weapons, and an outbreak of hostilities between Hizballah and Israel, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. The creeping Western involvement in the Syrian conflict was not previously acknowledged and the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah rarely figured publicly as a fighting prop of the Assad regime.
That is until the dam burst Friday and Saturday, Sept 7-8.
The United States then admitted that US officials and intelligence agents were training and aiding Syrian rebels from positions on the Turkish border – and therefore directly intervening in their operations.
This admission came on the heels of the DEBKAfile disclosure of Sept. 6 that Turkish officers backed by US agents had taken command of two Syrian rebel brigades.
Britain and France came next to report they were sending aid directly to the Syrian opposition, a more cautious admission than the American reference to officials and agents, but clearly on the same track, which adds up to their direct intervention in Syria for the creation of safe havens.
French and British foreign ministers attending a European Union meeting in Cyprus called Friday night for sanctions against Hizballah, meaning that mounting Western pressure on Assad has been extended to his Lebanese ally.
But the big event thus portended is still to come.
It will now be up to the Syrian rebels, backed and steered by a US-led Arab-Western-European-Turkish coalition, to fight for the safe haven, purge it of forces and militias loyal to Assad and expand it for control of large tracts of territory in eastern and western Syria.
Despite fairly large-scale defections, the bulk of the Syrian army still maintains its allegiance to the Syrian ruler and doesn’t appear ready to turn against him. The rebels therefore face a long, arduous and hazardous haul before they can secure a substantial safe haven – unless it can be shortened by a step now under consideration in Washington, London, Paris, Ankara and at least two Arab capitals: aerial bombardment of the Syrian army’s toughest backbone, the 9th Division commanded by the Syrian ruler’s brother, Gen. Maher Assad. .
The same treatment could be meted out to smash Hizballah bases and strategic centers.
The thinking in some circles in Washington is that Russia’s disengagement from its support of the Assad regime and cutoff of essential weapons, have opened the way to severing the military bonds tying Assad, Hizballah and Tehran together. As long as those bonds are viable, it will be that much harder to bring Assad to heel and subjugate his armed forces.
The revelation by British military sources Friday, Sept. 7 that 150 elite officers and troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards had flown into Syria was intended as a warning to Tehran that the time had come to pull its hand out of the Syrian fire.
This rush of events may bring closer to reality the action feared most by Western powers, Israel, Turkey and Jordan that, as his enemies close in, Assad will bring out his chemical and bioogical weapons.
Consciousness of this approaching threat led Washington sources to disclose Friday that Syria’s chemical arsenal was bigger and more widely scattered than suspected hitherto. It was also an admission that Washington was no longer fully apprised of the scale of this arsenal or its locations.
Last week, Israeli media were too preoccupied with the likelihood of war with Iran to notice that Israel and Hizxballah had moved up to the brink of a major clash. The war alert declared by Israel’s armed forces in mid-week had only partly eased by Saturday..
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 6, 2012, 10:59 AM (GMT+02:00)
Turkish army officers have assumed direct command of the first two Syrian rebel brigades fighting Bashar Assad’s government forces, according toDEBKAfile’s exclusive sources. This step has sent military tensions rocketing on Israel’s northern borders with Syria and Lebanon in case of a backlash.
The rebel North Liberators Brigade in the Idlib region of northern Syria and the Tawhid Brigade fighting in the Al-Bab area northeast of Aleppo are now taking their operational orders from Turkish officers, who exercise their authority from headquarters outside Syria in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep. Nonetheless, Turkey is considered to have stepped directly into the Syrian conflict marking the onset of foreign intervention.
Western and Arab military circles in the Middle East expect Turkey to extend its command to additional rebel units – not all of them part of the Free Syrian Army.
This first step has already caused waves.
1. The consequences of Turkish military action in Syria were urgently aired with CIA Director David Petraeus when he arrived in Ankara Monday, Sept. 3, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources reveal. After hearing how and when Ankara proposed to expand its role in the Syrian conflict, Petraeus discussed with Turkish military and intelligence chiefs the likely Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah responses.
He then flew to Israel to continue the discussion there.
2. By then, US, Turkish and Israeli intelligence watchers were reporting unusual military movements in Syria and on Hizballah turf in southern Lebanon – suspected of being preparations for a blowback from the Turkish intervention in Syria.
3. The IDF countered by placing its units guarding the Syrian and Lebanese borders on a state of alert. Wednesday, Sept. 5, an Iron Dome battery was installed in Gush Dan to head off a potential Hizballah missile barrage on central Israel and its hub, Tel Aviv.
4. Later that day, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan commented: “The regime in Syria has now become a terrorist state.”
Only a few of Erdogan’s listeners understood he was laying international legal grounding for expanding Turkish military intervention in Syria.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Thursday, Sept. 6, military temperatures remained high-to-feverish along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Israel, and along Lebanon’s borders with Syria and Israel.
Syria‘s army tank (AFP Photo / STR)
The West will retaliate harshly if the Syrian army deploys chemical weapons, France’s foreign minister said Monday. Damascus vowed not to use its chemical arsenal against its own people, but left the option open in the event of a foreign invasion.
The Syrian army is believed to possess stockpiles of nerve agents and mustard gas, and the Scud missiles capable of delivering them.
If Damascus chose to use their biological or chemical weapons, “our response … would be massive and blistering,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday during an interview with RMC radio.
Western countries are monitoring the movement of chemical weapons in Syria and are prepared to “step in” immediately, Fabius said: “We are discussing this notably with our American and English partners.”
In August, US President Barack Obama said that if Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad used or transported chemical weapons, it would be “a red line” for Washington. This position was widely echoed by the UK and France, with French and British politicians urging the UN to investigate Syria’s chemical strike threats.
France has intensified its hawkish rhetoric since Washington’s declaration. “What’s at stake goes beyond Syria. It concerns the security of the Middle East and especially Lebanon,” French President Francois Hollande said a week ago.
Fabius declined to comment on Friday over whether Paris or Washington would intervene first if Syria were discovered to have moved its arsenal. “I shall keep it secret,” he told radio station Europe-1.
The possibility of the Assad regime using chemical weapons has stirred international concerns, even among nations that have taken a moderate stance the Syrian conflict. Russia held several urgent negotiations with Damascus requesting assurance that the country’s chemical and biological stockpiles are properly guarded, and will not be moved or deployed.
On Monday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton declared that “the risk of a chemical weapons deployment today remains high.” Though the remarks were supposedly a statement about the use of the weapons worldwide, she was referencing the ongoing Syrian crisis.
Following numerous unsuccessful negotiations between the country’s warring factions, Moscow reiterated its noninterventionist stance concerning the Syrian conflict: “We hope nobody would resort to any kind of foolishness,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said, adding that military intervention is unacceptable.
The End is near? “The Islamic revolution was a great leap in leading the people and reaching the climax of history.” -President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 12, 2006
September 1, 2012 – TEHRAN – Iran would take action if the United States were to carry out an act of “stupidity” and attack Syria, an Iranian military official was quoted as saying on Saturday, but the comments later disappeared from the state-linked agency website. Iran has steadfastly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his bid to suppress an uprising which both Tehran and Damascus see as a proxy war by Israel and Western states to extend their influence in the Middle East. “If America were to attack Syria, Iran along with Syria’s allies will take action, which would amount to a fiasco for America,” Mohammad Ali Assoudi, the deputy for culture and propaganda of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was quoted as saying. Assoudi’s comments were first carried by the government-linked news agency Young Journalists’ Club but were later apparently taken down from the group’s website. The comments were picked up by Iranian news sites including Iran’s Jam-e Jam newspaper and the BBC’s Persian-language site. Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment. Assoudi did not specify exactly what steps Iran would take, but said Syria’s allies would implement their joint military pact in the case of a U.S. attack. “In the case of American stupidity and a military attack by this country on Syria, the joint military pact of Syria’s allies would be implemented,” Assoudi said. Iran and Syria signed a mutual defense pact in 2006, but little is known of its details, or whether there are any other signatories. The Islamic Republic considers Assad’s government, along with Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah, part of an “axis of resistance” against the influence of the United States and Israel in the Middle East. But while Turkey, Gulf Arab countries and Western states admit to giving non-weapons aid to the Syrian rebels, there is little or no appetite in Washington, especially in an election year, for direct military intervention in Syria. Without U.S. leadership, its allies also appear unwilling to go it alone. Iran accuses Western powers and regional states of supporting and arming the rebels, while the rebels accuse Iran of sending IRGC fighters to help Assad crush the uprising. “With cooperation from Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, America has the goal of striking a blow against Syria and making preparations for the fall of the Syrian government,” Assoudi said. –Reuters
Iran and N. Korea in one trench against common foe:Iran and North Korea have signed an agreement to collaborate in the fields of science and technology, showing that nearly a decade of US efforts to isolate the two states internationally might have actually pushed them closer together. Iranian state television said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and North Korea’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam were both present in Tehran for the signing of the agreement on Saturday. The two states will cooperate in biotechnology, engineering, renewable energy, sustainable development, research, joint laboratories and the environment, and facilitate more student exchanges, Reuters cites Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) as saying. On the same day, Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi called for the strengthening of economic ties between the two states, the agency cites Iranian state TV as reporting. North’s Korea’s No. 2 was in Tehran along with 119 other world leaders for the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. The summit, whose agenda included nuclear disarmament, human rights and the Syrian conflict, is one of the few multilateral forums in which Pyongyang participates. It had previously been speculated that North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un would be in attendance. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Kim Yong Nam and was quick to underscore the force underpinning growing collaboration between the two states. “The Islamic Republic of Iran and North Korea have common enemies, because the arrogant powers do not accept independent states,” the ILNA quoted Khamenei as saying. Khamenei’s harsh rebuke was most almost certainly targeted at the United States, which vilified the two states as being part of an “Axis of Evil” (along with Iraq) in 2002 despite the lack of any overt ties between the three states. Iranian and North Korean officials have previously characterized their countries as being in “one trench” in the fight against the United States and the West. Western powers have accused them, meanwhile, of being close partners in nuclear and missile technologies. –RT News
World at dangerous crossroads for WW3: Whatever action the U.S. takes in the Middle East, whether against Iran itself or Syria; Iran is now determined to enlarge the conflict into an Armageddon war (Al-Malhamah Al-Kubrah) that will result in the destruction of Israel, the U.S, and will cleanse the Middle East of western influence, whilel ushering in the reign of the 12th Iman. This crisis is already now that dangerous. “Ahmadinejad has aligned himself with the virtually invincible combined power of the East: Russia, China, North Korea, and to some extent, even India; making any potential future conflict in the area, involving Iran, a dangerous trip-wire for dragging other nations into the conflict. The future of the Middle East hangs in the balance, awaiting the outcome of this Iran-Israel high-stakes game of Stratego. A miscalculation by either side holds the potential for global disaster.” –The Extinction Protocol, page 82
No announcement was made, no plans or timetable published, simply a vote on authorization of force which passed unanimously by member and included non-member states unanimously.”
Two issues were on the agenda:
1. How climate change in Greenland will effect geopolitics, immigration and military affairs for the EU
2. Syria and the potential for Russian and Chinese intervention.
3. Iran was not an official agenda item but it is an unspoken conclusion that, if China and/or Russia stand aside for interference by NATO in Syria’s internal affairs, this will be seen as an authorization for incursions into Iran, a systematic “Balkanization” based on a prescribed formula of “manufactured and simulated internal political and social strife.”
No announcement was made, no plans or timetable published, simply a vote on authorization of force which passed unanimously by member and included non-member states unanimously.
News stories throughout North America and Europe earlier in the day were filled with reports of mass killings by the Syrian Army and the presence of Iranian troops in Syria. True or not, these stories represent a pre-staging for the NATO conference.
The critical reporting issue involves rhetoric. We moved, yesterday, from discussions of “fighting” to “systematic execution of hundreds of civilians.”
No video nor photos were included to verify neither claims nor sources given other than reports from “rebel forces.”
Recent consultation with friends in the Pentagon as to Syria’s air defense system indicated that the US has, in place, a play to destroy the command and control capability of Syria’s system.
The problems are twofold:
1. Russian technicians man the Syrian system
2. The S300P2 system Syria uses is extremely “robust”
An additional political consideration is a simple one, there is no UN authorization. Both Russia and China have vetoed even sanctions against Syria much less authorized an attack.
Thus, there is no existing authority capable of justifying an attack.
In an interview this week at the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) conference in Tehran, attended by 120 member states, a huge defeat for NATO interests in the area, this interview yielded some substantive and surprising facts.
Press TV: Certain powers have been trying to isolate Iran, actually, by not holding such a conference at such a high ranking level. As you said, this all has failed.
Now tell us about all the sanctions against Iran which have propagated against Iran, that Iran should be isolated, but as you said it’s all been failed. What is really important is that the agenda of the 688-point draft document which talked about, as you call and urge all countries to make the world free from any nuclear weapons.
You were a senior expert in the IAEA as an inspector. Tell us about that and also with the particular focus on Israel which has not yet signed up to the NPT.
Abu Shadi: I oppose strongly any kind of accusation on any state based on intelligence information. All the accusations given to the nuclear program in Iran is based only on intelligence information. There is no single proof that Iran is deviating from its commitment from the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
I am very surprised that the Security Council took four decisions, sanctions against Iran just because of rumors that the intelligence source may think there is something.
I think this policy should be changed. The Security Council and its way of veto, and its limited number only to the big powers should be changed. I think that will also be one of the points to be addressed in this conference. I believe strongly that that situation, which is actually politically influenced by the West, should be changed.
With respect to your second part about the NPT, in fact, almost all the states in the world respects the Non-Proliferation [Treaty] except the five weaponized states, which they should reduce their weapons which didn’t happen up until today, and the three or four states which did not sign the NPT including Israel. Israel is the only state in the Middle East who did not sign the NPT.
None of the Western countries who are accusing not only Iran but before also Iraq, Libya, Syria and even Egypt, did not consider any accusation to what the Israelis are doing. I believe this bias in the international organization should be stopped.
Shadi makes some particularly interesting points and raises some concerns few had noticed. His most damning statement, of course, is that the Security Council, a carryover from a war 70 years ago, certainly a demonstration of oligarchic rule at the United Nations, has been directed at Iran.
In particular, he notes that the council’s unilateral and undemocratic decisions, followed by nations, China and Russia, who defended Syria, were aimed at Iran but backed by no presentation of facts or even qualified intelligence assessments. In fact, since Colin Powell’s humiliating WMD presentation before the UN, no “American fact” has been taken seriously nor is likely to.
CNN quotes a top Powell aid:
A former top aide to Colin Powell says his involvement in the former secretary of state’s presentation to the United Nations on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was “the lowest point” in his life.
“I wish I had not been involved in it,” says Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a longtime Powell adviser who served as his chief of staff from 2002 through 2005. “I look back on it, and I still say it was the lowest point in my life.”
Actual risks and ramifications
Top intelligence analysts in private consultation fear a larger Middle East war. “Russia and China won’t stand back, not with the US planning a unilateral move on Africa and its resources. It’s like 1947 again with Truman and the Marshall plan, encirclement, but a war over, not just resources but a world war against what has now seen as the real threat, what Americans call the “middle class.”
Thus, taking Syria without taking Iran is “not in the cards.” Here I return to the words of H. G. Wells, in his War of the Worlds. His grasp in this fiction well over a century old reflects on our times in a curious and wonderfully literate manner:
“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.
Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of…
And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The Martians seem to have calculated their descent with amazing subtlety–their mathematical learning is evidently far in excess of ours–and to have carried out their preparations with a well-nigh perfect unanimity.”
Martians, this is how NATO and Israel look on the world, as expressed through the prose of Wells. Their gaze “cool and unsympathetic,” as drone warfare and their plans, calculated acts of false flag terror, kidnappings, assassinations, the abomination of mythical news reporting.
The end of the road, this path of “hubris” could well be world war, least of all fuel price increases that collapse the currencies and economies.
Talking of death is nothing as we are now pre-staged to look on life as nothing, all victims are “militants” if you want them dead or “collateral damage” when you err.
Iran’s position chairing NAM makes them a harder target. The general criticism by many NAM members, the dictatorial rule of the United Nations by the Security Council, has not prevented the Syrian conflict from becoming a threat to world peace.
For Iran, their choice seems, on the surface, to be in aiding Syria, negotiations, using oil leverage with India, China and others and predicting how the west is plotting.
If Iran falls, it will be only another domino.
By David Lev
For those who think that Israel is a $3 billion-a-year strategic liability for the U.S., the cause of Muslim terrorism, Mideast instability, and high gas prices, New York attorney and Israel advocate Mark Langfan has a message: Get a map.
Preferably, the 3D topographic raised-relief map system of Israelthat Langfan developed back in 1991, which gives viewers a perspective on Israel – and on the Middle East – that they may not have had before. The map shows just how important Israel is to U.S. interests – how a strong and secure Israel, far from being a strategic liability, is actually the one thing that is preventing the Middle East from falling into complete chaos.
With an Israeli presence in the high ground of Judea and Samaria and on the Golan Heights, “Israel is immune to an existential attack” by ground troops from Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon. In the video below, Langfan lays out the case for Israel’s retention of these areas; with them, Israel can defend itself and ensure a semblance of order in the region, Without them, Iran and its radical Islamist allies would have a free hand, picking through the debris of the “regimes’ ancien” of the Middle East, and eventually taking over the greatest prize of all – oil-rich Saudi Arabia, thus controlling the fate of the entire Western world.
In the video, Langfan revives the idea of the “domino theory,” which was a cause for great debate in the U.S. during the Vietnam War era. But there’s no debate over what a Middle East domino spill would look like; a weak Israel without its strategic land assets would be open for attack by a revitalized Islamist front, led by Egypt, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Syria (with the likelihood that Bashar al-Assad will eventually be replaced by an Islamist government, as happened in Egypt).
If Israel is destroyed – or even if it is allowed to survive (temporarily) in a cowed, defensive state, the Islamist front, led by Iran, would continue with its agenda to take over the Middle East. First to go would be Jordan, which Syria has coveted for decades, and which Islamists despise because of King Abdullah’s ties with the West. By that time, Iraq would also have been absorbed into the super “Shiastan” state expanding from Iran – and there would be nothing to stop Iran and the Islamists from walking into Saudi Arabia and taking over. The Islamists would be in full control of all waterways that Western navies could use to send ships and troops to the region, including the Persian Gulf and the Suez Canal. And at that point, Langfan says in the video, the U.S. and Europe would be truly be the vassals, or “dhimmis,” of the Islamists.
Even if the U.S. could find the wherewithal to defend its Middle East interests under such conditions, it would cost far more than the $3 billion Israel gets each year- not to mention the costs in blood and treasure from a protracted war in which U.S. troops, without a friendly base to work from, are forced to fight in difficult desert conditions. That is, of course, even if the American people could be rallied to take on such a fight – unlikely after their experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.
All this can be avoided, however, if the U.S. supports Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria and in the Golan. The video also mentions the importance of Gaza, which Israel has since abandoned – resulting of tens of thousands of missiles being fired at southern Israel by Hamas, and inspiring Hizbullah to attack Israel with tens of thousands of its own missiles from the north. If that is the result of abandoning the small territory of Gaza – which does not even have strategic defensive height and is surrounded by sparsely populated desert areas – what would be the result of Israel’s abandonment of the much more important territories in Judea, Samaria, and the Golan?
Langfan hopes we never have to find out. “Israel is the cause of U.S. stability,” he says. “Israel is the tip of the West’s spear against a Muslim tsunami.”
If you don’t believe him, just check the map.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims that Turkey is to blame for violence in the 17-month-old uprising in his country.
By Elad Benari
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday blamed Turkey for violence in the 17-month-old uprising in his country, in which thousands have died, Al-Arabiya reported.
“Turkey bears direct responsibility for the blood being shed in Syria,” the network quoted Assad as having said in an interview with the pro-regime local television channel Ad-Dounia.
He added that the talk of a Western-imposed buffer zone on Syrian territory was unrealistic and that the situation in his country was “better.”
“Talk of buffer zones firstly is not on the table and secondly it is an unrealistic idea by hostile countries and the enemies of Syria,” Assad said.
He added that his government had been aware some officials were trying to defect and allowed them to leave unhindered.
“Sometimes we had information (on defections) and we would discuss it. Some would suggest we stop them. But we said no, stopping them isn’t the right thing to do, letting them leave is the right thing to do … let’s facilitate their exit,” he said.
Assad added that such officials should be allowed to leave because it was “cleaning” the state of unpatriotic officials.
As he has done in previous interviews, Assad once again denied that there is an uprising in his country, claiming that “What is happening is neither a revolution nor a Spring, it is about terrorist acts in every sense of the term.”
In excerpts of the interview released on Tuesday, Assad claimed that the situation in the torn country is improving.
He said that it will take some time until the military campaign in the country is completed, adding that the regime is making progress and the improvement can already be felt.
“We are in the midst of a global and regional war,” said Assad, “so it is no wonder that it takes a long time to finish it.”
Assad’s remarks come as the 18-month-old civil war in the country continues to claimmore and more victims.
Last week, rebels said they shot down another helicopter, providing indications that they have acquired anti-aircraft weapons and surface-to-air missiles as the bloody and savage civil war drags on and the number of massacres rises.
Over the weekend, the Syrian army was accused of committing a massacre in the town of Darya, outside the capital Damascus, when 300 bodies were found on Saturday.
Commander Gneral Salar Abnoush told a group of volunteer trainees during a speech delivered Monday, “We are involved in fighting every aspect of a war – a military one in Syria, and a cultural one as well.”
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report August 29, 2012, 4:44 PM (GMT+02:00)
Russian naval vessels have unexpectedly departed the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartus and Russian arms shipments to Syria have been suddenly discontinued. DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal that those and other steps indicate that the Russians are rapidly drawing away from the Syrian arena to avoid getting caught up in the escalating hostilities expected to arise from military intervention by the US, Europe and a number of Arab states. Russian intelligence appears to have decided that this outside intervention is imminent and Moscow looks anxious to keep its distance for now.
According to our military and Russian sources, these drastic steps must have been personally ordered by President Vladimir Putin. He is believed to have acted over the objections of some of his army and naval chiefs. This would explain the mixed statements issuing from Moscow in recent days about the disposition of Russian personnel at the naval base in Tartus and Russian military personnel in Syria.
Wednesday, Aug. 22, Commander of the Russian Navy Vice Adm. Viktor Chirkov said that if the fighting in Syria reached Tartus, Moscow may decide to evacuate the base. He stressed that this decision would have to be taken on the authority of President Putin. He was the first Russian official to suggest the possibility of an evacuation.
A week later, Aug. 28, Russian chief of staff Gen. Nikolai Makarov denied anything had changed in the working procedures of Russian military personnel in Syria or that there were any plans to evacuate the Russian naval base in Tartus:
“I think it’s too early to draw conclusions [from the situation in Syria],” said the general. “No one is running away from there.”
When a Russian journalist pressed the general and ventured to ask whether Moscow was terminating its military involvement in Syria, Marakov retorted, “Why are you so worried about Syria?”
But he didn’t answer the question.
DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that the Russians have taken five significant military steps with regard to Syria in the last two weeks:
1. They cancelled a large-scale naval exercise dubbed “Caucasus 2012” scheduled to start mid-August in the eastern Mediterranean opposite the Syrian coast;
2. Warships from three fleets – the Northern, Baltic and Black Sea – concentrated opposite Syria have dispersed and returned to their bases;
3. Syrian President Bashar Assad was notified that Moscow was halting military aid to his army – except for intelligence updates and advice on logistics from Russian military advisers;
4. Moscow has not clearly announced a freeze on arms shipments, including replacement parts for Russian weapons, which make up the bulk of the Syrian army’s weaponry. Officials have only said, “There are no large Russian weapons shipments planned in the near future to Syria.”
5. The only Russian naval ship left in Tartus – a floating Russian Navy PM-138 shipyard – is also under orders to depart Tartus and return to the Black Sea in September.
A Russian source disclosed that all the remaining Russian personnel in Tartus have gathered on the floating shipyard, except for two officers on shore. This vessel and the remaining personnel are evidently packed up and ready to sail at any moment out of the Syrian port.
By Elad Benari
The Supreme Military Council of the Syrian rebels released on a statement on Tuesday which said that the rebel forces took control of an army missile base in Damascus, in which ten ready-to-launch missiles were found. Some of the missiles,according to the statement, were converted to carry non-conventional warheads.
“During the successful operation, the operatives of the Free Syrian Army found a large number of rockets ready for launching, with enormous destructive capability, and they were very surprised to find missiles that were converted to carry non-conventional warheads and which can be equipped with chemical or biological warheads,” said the statement which was translated by Arab affairs expert Dalit Halevi.
The Supreme Military Council of the rebels went on to claim that it had confirmed the report by examining photographic documentation of the scene.
The Council warned that these facts indicate that the Assad regime is getting ready to bomb cities in Syria using these missiles, and the possibility that he will use missiles with unconventional warheads cannot be ruled out.
The Council called on Arab countries and the international community to immediately intervene in order to protect the lives of the Syrian people “before the regime moves to a new level of crimes, which will have tragic consequences for the entire region.”
Hollande said that France was working along with several other countries to create a protective zone around Syria, to be in position to move in if necessary.
“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime — but also to other players on the ground — that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
He added, “That would change my calculus; that would change my equation.”
Syria has admitted it has chemical weapons and has threatened to use them if attacked by external forces. It claimed it will not use these weapons on rebels fighting to oust Assad.
Recent reports from Syria indicated that Assad has transferred a battery of advanced missiles to the al-Masna border crossing, which is the central route used to transfer equipment and weapons to Hizbullah. Members of the Syrian opposition said that one of two major chemical arsenals of the Syrian regime is located near that border crossing.
This facility is located just 24 kilometers from a missile base belonging to Hizbullah and was first exposed by the London Times newspaper in May of 2010.