Russia Sending Warships on Maneuvers Near Syria

MOSCOW — Russia said on Tuesday that it had dispatched a flotilla of 11 warships to the eastern Mediterranean, some of which would dock in Syria. It would be the largest display of Russian military power in the region since the Syrian conflict began almost 17 months ago. Nearly half of the ships were capable of carrying hundreds of marines.

Russia has occasionally sent naval vessels on maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean, and it dispatched an aircraft-carrying battleship, the Admiral Kuznetsov, there for maneuvers with a few other vessels from December 2011 to February 2012. There were rumors in recent weeks that the Russians planned to deploy another naval force near Syria.

But the unusually large size of the force announced on Tuesday was considered a message, not just to the region but also to the United States and other nations supporting the rebels now trying to depose Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

Full article: Russia Sending Warships on Maneuvers Near Syria (New York Times)

Exclusive: State Department quietly warning region on Syrian WMDs

The State Department has begun coordinating with Syria’s neighbors to prepare for the handling of President Bashar al-Assad’s extensive weapons of mass destruction if and when his regime collapses, The Cable has learned.

This week, the State Department sent a diplomatic demarche to Syria’s neighbors Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, warning them about the possibility of Syria’s WMDs crossing their borders and offering U.S. government help in dealing with the problem, three Obama administration officials confirmed to The Cable. For concerned parties both inside and outside the U.S. government, the demarche signifies that the United States is increasingly developing plans to deal with the dangers of a post-Assad Syria — while simultaneously highlighting the lack of planning for how to directly bring about Assad’s downfall.

Syria is believed to have a substantial chemical weapons program, which includes mustard gas and sophisticated nerve agents, such as sarin gas, as well as biological weapons. Syria has also refused IAEA requests to make available facilities that were part of its nuclear weapons program and may still be in operation.

Full article: Exclusive: State Department quietly warning region on Syrian WMDs (Foreign Policy)

Obama to redouble efforts on removal of al-Assad

DAMASCUS- (AFP) – US President Barack Obama vowed to redouble efforts to force a change of regime in Syria as the UN Security Council struggled to agree on a resolution on Damascus’s crackdown on dissent.

Obama said concerns about the crackdown on demonstrators by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had been “uppermost” in talks with visiting Jordanian King Abdullah II on Tuesday.

“We continue to see unacceptable levels of violence inside that country,” Obama said.

“We will continue to consult very closely with Jordan to create the kind of international pressure and environment that encourage the current Syrian regime to step aside so that a more democratic process and transition can take place inside of Syria.”

The US president thanked King Abdullah for being the first Arab leader to call publicly for Assad to go and for taking part in Arab League efforts to mitigate the crisis.

Continue reading article: Obama to redouble efforts on removal of al-Assad (Vanguard)