Syria’s embattled leader Bashar al-Assad has used a rare interview – carried out amid the sound of artillery fire resounding through his presidential palace in Damascus – to warn the United States and Russia that their efforts to bring about talks will do little to halt the civil war laying waste to his country, and that he has no intention of stepping down.
In an exclusive interview for the Argentinian newspaper Clarín, shared with the Observer, Assad says he welcomes attempts at dialogue, but believes that western states are looking for ways to fuel the violence, rather than stop it, and are seeking to topple his regime regardless of the toll.
Moscow and Washington have been in dispute over the anti-Assad uprising since it began in March 2011 but are now trying to find common ground to quell the bloodshed and destruction as its effects continue to reverberate across the region. If successful, there are hopes talks could take place at the end of this month and lead to a multilateral summit attended by key protagonists.
Earlier we reported that the US has now officially landed a Marine force in Israel as well as an assault ship, in a visit that the US Navy promptly assured “is not associated with, nor a reaction to, any world events.” It seems we were not the only ones who read this justification somewhat skeptically: so did Russia. And in a historic event, the Russian Pacific fleet, for the first time in decades, crossed the Suez Canal and entered the Mediterranean, direction Cyprus’ port of Limasol (hi Cyprus – Russia will be arriving shortly) in what is now the loudest implied warning to the US and Israel amassing military units across Syria’s border that Russia will not stand idly by as Syria is used by the Israeli “Defense” Forces for target practice. “The task force has successfully passed through the Suez Channel and entered the Mediterranean. It is the first time in decades that Pacific Fleet warships enter this region,” Capt. First Rank Roman Martov said. This is what is also known as dropping hints, loud and clear.
The group, including the destroyer Admiral Panteleyev, the amphibious warfare ships Peresvet and Admiral Nevelskoi, the tanker Pechenga and the salvage/rescue tug Fotiy Krylov left the port of Vladivostok on March 19 to join Russia’s Mediterranean task force.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent three hours with Russian President Vladimir Putin at his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Tuesday, May, 14. He came for a last-ditch attempt to head off the supply of advanced Russian anti-air S-300 missile systems to Syria. Instead, the Russian leader turned the conversation around to focus implicitly on Israel’s air strikes against Damascus on May 3 and May 5. After their conversation he issued a warning: ”In this crucial period it is especially important to avoid any moves that can shake the situation.”
This was clearly a hands-off caution to Israel not to repeat its attacks on Damascus. And, furthermore, after “shaking the situation” in Syria by its air attacks, Israel was in no position to demand that Russia avoid selling Syria advanced weapons.
The prime minister, for his part, warned that the entire Middle East was in a dangerous state of volatility.
Two weeks ago, when we reported on the news of yet another aerial assault by Israel on Syria, we said that “while speculation a US-led escalation is ripe, the lack of any US naval support (as shown by Stratfor’s naval update map from May 2) off the coast of Syria likely makes any immediate war is hardly likely, or that Israel will be on its own for at least the foreseeable future.” Today this is no longer the case, following news that the US amphibious assult ship, LHD 3 and its cargo of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, have arrived in Eilat, Israel for a “reguarly scheduled post visit.” Amusingly, the US Navy was very quick to point out that “This visit is not associated with, nor a reaction to, any world events.” Just purely accidental then.
The multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), along with embarked Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU) arrived in Eilat, Israel for a regularly scheduled port visit, May 14.
Israel has given the green light for the construction of a further 300 homes in a West Bank settlement.The number of eviction incidents has risen sharply since a new Israeli government, with even stronger opposition to a 2-state solution, took office in March. And the Israeli defense force are ready to use almost anything to back their governments orders, including special anti-riot measure called ‘Skunk’.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, while in Shanghai, was given a sharp dressing-down by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a warning that Russia would not tolerate further Israeli attacks on Damascus and would respond.
Putin did not say how, but he did announce he had ordered the acceleration of highly advanced Russian weapons supplies to Syria.
Israeli Debkafile’s military sources disclosed that the Russian leader was referring to S-300 anti-air systems and the nuclear-capable 9K720 Iskander (NATO named SS-26 Stone) surface missiles, which are precise enough to hit a target within a 5-7 meter radius at a distance of 280 kilometers.
In his phone call to Netanyahu, the Russian leader advised the prime minister to make sure to keep this in mind.
We almost got an entire 24 hour period that did not have news about imminent war rumblings out of Syria. Almost. Late last night WSJ reported about the civil war torn country (in which the rebels may or may not be using chemical weapons, but are backed by both Al Qaeda and the US government) again, this time on a leak by Israel having warned the US that Russians are “imminently” going to sell advanced ground-to-air missile systems to Syria “that would significantly boost the regime’s ability to stave off intervention in its civil war.” Supposedly this means that Israel would be unable to continue its unimpeded military incursions of Syrian sovereign airspace and blow stuff up at whim just because it feels like it, and for whatever pretext the Israeli defense forces come up with.
Some details on what Syria is said to receive from Moscow via the WSJ:
This morning, the government of Israel contacted President Assad of Syria. They did so as the leader of a coalition now openly at war against Syria and Iran, with plans to broaden the conflict. Assad was told he would be allowed to continue his rule, but on the “Jordanian model,” as a puppet of Israel and Turkey.
ISRAELI ARTILLERY, “SHOCK AND AWE” FOR SYRIA’S ARMY
Israeli armor is now inside Syria, not just the occupied zone, but has closed the distance to Damascus and has that city under artillery fire.
The claimed air attacks are a ruse; Israel has been using 155 and 175 mm artillery, mobile howitzers of extreme range, enhanced by arms expert Gerald Bull, who was assassinated by Israeli agents in 1990 as his reward.
The artillery attacks on Syria, using time delay and cluster munitions, are in direct support of military actions with fire control and communications being supplied by Israeli UAV aircraft operating in Syrian air space in support of Al Qaeda led rebel group.
Israel’s real air force, from deep inside Syria
These terrorist groups, aided by extremists from Libya and the Gulf States are being trained and supplied in Jordan and Turkey. It is hard to ignore the fact that US troops, on a secret mission to verify Israeli claims of chemical weapon use by the Syrian government, are fully complicit in aiding Al Qaeda operations against the Syrian government.
As for chemical weapon use, a report from United Nations human rights investigators, according to Reuters, has verified that it is rebels who have been using these weapons, in particular, deadly Sarin Gas.
Former Swiss attorney general, Carla Del Ponte, representing the United Nations independent commission of inquiry, based in Geneva, is quoted in a televised interview:
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of Sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.
This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”