Russia Reportedly Arms Syria as Putin Claims Assad’s Downfall is Near

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HAIFA, Israel –  Russia continues to send  mixed signals over its stance in support of the Syrian regime, with President  Vladimir Putin hinting that President Bashar al-Assad’s downfall is likely even  as unconfirmed reports indicate Russia is shipping high-tech missiles to the  embattled strongman.

The abstention of Russia in Thursday’s UN vote condemning Syria, Iran and  North Korea for widespread and systematic human rights abuses, is juxtaposed by  Putin’s comments earlier in the day that, “We are not preoccupied that much with  the fate of the Assad regime; we realize what’s going on there.”

Unconfirmed reports suggesting that Moscow may have sent some 24 Iskander  cruise missiles to bolster Syrian forces, prompting neighboring countries such  as Israel, Turkey and Jordan, whose respective militaries have for some time  been on a heightened state of alert due to the instability in Syria, to further  increase their vigilance and monitoring of events in the region.

Russian missile batteries like this one are already in place along Syria’s borders, according to reports. (AP)

Reports that the Iskander missiles – also known as SS26-Stone missiles –might  have been dispatched from Russia to Syria first surfaced on Dec. 9. Sources  believe the weapons passed through the port of Tartus on Syria’s  Mediterranean coast and have deployed at dual points: 12 facing Turkey on  Syria’s northeast border, and 12 facing Jordan and Israel on Syria’s southern  border. Just as worrisome for those who fear an escalation could spill over  beyond Syria’s borders is the fact that a number of other vessels are reportedly  on their way to Tartus.

“They (the Russian vessels) are heading to the Syrian coast to assist in a  possible evacuation of Russian citizens. Preparations for the deployment were  carried out in a hurry and were heavily classified,” Russia’s Interfax news  agency reported.

Other reports from the region have suggested however that the ships bound for  Tartus are not the type normally used for evacuation purposes and include two  amphibious assault vessels. And on Wednesday evening, in what may be a related  move, Vice Admiral Hossein Azad of the Iranian navy told local media that a  Russian naval vessel had arrived at the southern Iranian port of Bandar  Abbas.

Marshal Shaposhnikov, a Russian Udaloy-class destroyer, has docked at this  port with the aim of strengthening military ties between Iran and Russia”, the  vice admiral said. Both Iran and Russia have been principal supporters of  President Assad’s embattled regime.

Were the Iskander missiles to have entered Syrian civil war in which has  claimed at least 40,000 lives, it would potentially take the conflict to a new  and even more dangerous level. The weapons have a range of up to 280 miles, can  carry a massive warhead weighing up to half a ton, and are able to fly at a  speed of up to 1.3 miles per second, making interception particularly difficult.  There has for some time been serious concern among Syria’s neighbors that Assad  may attempt to drag the whole region into the war if he feels his own battle is  lost.

When combined with growing fears that Iranian-backed Syria and its allied  militia Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, who on Thursday officially confirmed to  the UN they are fighting alongside Assad’s troops in Syria – may be preparing to  use chemical weapons, the stakes are even deadlier.

The search for Assad’s stockpile of chemicals has been the central focal  point of the attentions of various foreign agencies including the CIA, Mossad,  and other western security services since the summer, all desperate to ensure  that such weapons of mass destruction don’t fall into the hands of either  Hezbollah, Iran, or the plethora of Islamist jihadi groups who have formed the  disparate opposition to Assad.

Earlier this week both Israel and Jordan have moved to prepare for the  possibility of a spread of the Syrian conflict. Maj. Gen Amir Eshel of the  Israeli Air Force told reporters that Hezbollah already has a range of unmanned  drones at their disposal.

Earlier this week a massive explosion in southern Lebanon rocked a suspected  Hezbollah storage depot.

“It is no secret that Hezbollah is preparing weapon stockpiles in Lebanon,  contradicting UN resolutions,” Eshol said. “Those who sleep with rockets and  amass large stockpiles of weapons…are in a very unsafe place.”

On Wednesday, the Jordanian military issued gas masks. Jordan has taken in a  large number of Syrian refugees and hosts U.S. troops on its soil, together with  troops from both Poland and the Czech Republic.

Turkey has also granted safe haven to many fleeing Syrian refugees. The spark  that ignited the perceived escalation of weaponry was NATO’s decision to grant  Turkey’s request for Patriot missiles to be stationed on its eastern border  following the killing of a number of its civilians as a result of Syrian  cross-border shelling. Turkey argued that the Patriot missiles were needed to  protect against any further attacks on its soil by Syria, the country that only  three years ago had declared Turkey and Iran as its new best friends and formed  a three-cornered alliance.

The Patriots, together with their 400 U.S. troops who now operate the system  on the Turkey-Syria border, also appear to consider Russia a threat to its  interests in the region, adding further fuel to rumors that Moscow might have  introduced new armaments into the conflict as a counter-measure to the NATO  deployment.

“We have been clear on how Russia can play a more constructive role in  this conflict,” a U.S. State Department official told

Source: Fox News

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