Not 24 hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that a pre-emptive strike (by the US and/or Israel) would violate international law, Moscow put muscle into his warning: Tuesday, April 3, the Russian guided missile destroyer Smetliviy arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus from its Black Sea base for a naval exercise. The warship’s support group is on the way.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Russian flotilla carried a threefold message for Washington:
1. The Russian-Iranian strategy of propping up the Assad regime which has brought the Syrian ruler close to victory over his foes, will continue: Diplomacy will be propelled by military impetus.
2. Russia is providing the Assad regime with defense systems capable of repelling foreign military intervention.
3. Consigning the Smetliviy warship to Syria illustrates Moscow’s new rapid response policy: Russia is launching a naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean to match the “Noble Dina” air and naval maneuver the US, Israel and Greece are conducting across a broad expanse of sea between Crete and the Israeli bases at Haifa and Ashdod.
On Feb. 4, 2012, Russia vetoed the draft resolution that was presented to the UN Security Council regarding the condemnation of the violent acts in Syria.
Even though, in accordance with Moscow’s demands, many amendments were made to the resolution, which was drafted by the Arab League and supported by the West, the resolution was vetoed by both Russia and China. The resolution condemned the Damascus government, requested that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turn his duties over to his assistant and further requested that the violent acts against civilians end. Russia objected to the resolution on the grounds of the text being “biased” and because it did not condemn the armed opposition. As Sergey Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, stated, “It is unacceptable to hold the government solely responsible for the violent acts.” Moscow also claims requesting that Assad step down means a regime change, and a regime change is still not acceptable to Russia. After the vetoed resolution, the common point of criticism in international public opinion toward Russia is that Moscow has been green-lighting the continued bloody conflicts in Syria. After the UN Security Council meeting on Feb. 4, the meeting on Feb. 7 between Lavrov and Assad was highly anticipated. The aim and result of this diplomatic endeavor by Russia, which repeatedly stated that a diplomatic solution is a must in Syria, was impatiently awaited by all actors.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has been outspoken about a possible Israeli offensive against Iran taking place as of April and one American TV channel theorized simplistically Friday, Feb. 3, about Israel’s tactics. At the same time, no US source is leveling on the far more extensive American, Saudi, British, French and Gulf states’ preparations going forward for an offensive against the Islamic Republic.
Tehran too is gearing up for conflict: The Iranian Guards Ground Forces chief Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour Saturday, Feb. 4 announced the start of a three-week exercise in southern Iran and the Strait of Hormuz under conditions of war. debkafile: The “exercise” is in fact an Iranian military buildup ahead of a possible American or Israel attack.
debkafile’s military sources report a steady flow of many thousands of US troops for some weeks to two strategic islands within reach of Iran, Oman’s Masirah just south of the Strait of Hormuz and Socotra, between Yemen and the Horn of Africa. (DEBKA-Net-Weekly 526 of Jan. 27 was the first world publication to reveal the massive concentration of American might on the two islands.)