Russia may send lawmakers to lobby Congress on Syria
By Justin Sink 09/02/13 02:24 PM ET
Putin has signaled his support for a proposal made by two Russian lawmakers to send a delegation to Washington.
Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC News on Sunday that the administration had offered Russians a briefing on its intelligence assessment.
“In fact, we sent people over to Russia who provided evidence we had with respect to the last [chemical weapons attack],” Kerry said. “And they chose – I literally mean chose – not to believe it or to at least acknowledge publicly. I think this evidence is going to be overwhelming. If the President of Russia chooses yet again to ignore it, that’s his choice.”
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/middle-east-north-africa/319905-report-russia-may-send-lawmakers-to-lobby-congress-against-syria-strike#ixzz2dlRglBBm
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September 2013 –
from The Guardian (Occam’s Corner) –
On Friday 30 August, Secretary of State John Kerry laid out a wealth of unclassified information showcasing the involvement of Assad’s regime in the massacres, and highlighting the US moral obligation to act. The following day, President Obama spoke with his usual eloquence, outlining the moral imperative of demonstrating to the Syrian regime (and other regimes that may harbour similar thoughts of using weapons of mass destruction) that its actions would not be condoned. President Obama did, however, indicate that he intended to first seek and obtain support from the American people through their representatives in Congress. Interestingly, and in my view erroneously, a variety of pundits, analysts and leaders in the Middle East think this decision reflects inherent weakness in the president.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha recently hosted a workshop on the “Arab Spring”, with one of the world’s foremost experts on Syria, Professor Joshua Landis, whose website Syria Comment is arguably one of the best sources for accurate and up-to-date information and analysis of the situation in Syria.
Syria chemical attacks: when science takes a back seat to morality
Monday 2 September 2013 07.25 EDT
Spin Doctor: The Blood Of Dictators
2nd Sep 13
Destroy the dictators and promote democracy? Mind our business and stay away? Intervene selectively and according to varying rationales, depending on the circumstances? Each of these choices tears us apart.
They also involve derivative trouble, sprouting two heads for every one severed, like the Hydra. Taking out the military dictators invites chaos and disorder, tribal conflict, death and destruction. Democracy falls in the hands of thugs, or worse yet, religious hardliners, who are hell bent on imposing the law of God, as told in the Quran, in the way they interpret it. Doing nothing against them passes a message of weakness and invites trouble from all sorts of aspiring tyrants, troublemakers and killers. And selective intervention, that precious asset of open, thinking society is looking more like vacillation, making those who practice it sound self-important, foolish and confused. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, damned if you think you can sit back and think about it for a while.
I watched several news channels early this morning, one of which included Lavarov saying that the evidence shown by the Americans wasn’t convincing and then he listed that it didn’t have latitude and longitude coordinates, etc. (roughly paraphrased) but I noticed he was lying. And, that seems odd.
Why lie about it? If your entire foreign policy is to deny the existence of whatever happened simply to vote no in the security council halls at the UN – why bother? Just say that no matter what atrocity is done by a government head and / or its military, you agree with them doing that. Or, simply say, “look – we are going to vote no – regardless, no matter what.” That solves as good without getting on news broadcasts and pretending to be a responsible member of the international community concerned with diplomatic and foreign affairs while remarkably lying about the evidence you’ve seen on the situation.
This isn’t about Russia and China vetoing any resolution by the UN Security Council that may be made condemning the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, but it will become that. There is no point in a UN Security Council if it and its participants can’t be counted on to say a situation is wrong when it is wrong.
The newspaper also said the dossier itemized around 1,000 tons of chemical weapons making Syria the site of one of the largest such arsenals in the world.
A government source said top lawmakers would be given “evidence of different kinds that will allow the regime to be clearly identified as responsible for the August 21 chemical attack”.
France to table ‘evidence’ of chemical attack in Syria
French intel report says rebels don’t have the ability to use or even store the chemical agents used in the attack. http://bit.ly/1e7SBFX
Synthesis of declassified National Intelligence Syrian chemical program
Job past cases of chemical agents by the regime
Chemical attack led by the regime August 21, 2013
The chain of command and responsibilities
The Syrian chemical program revolves around the Center of Studies and Scientific Research (CERS).
[It] is primarily responsible for the production of toxic warfare agents. Its 450 branch is responsible for filling operations ammunition chemicals, but also the security of the sites and chemical stocks.
Composed solely of Alawite military, this unit is characterized by a high loyalty to the regime. Bashar al-Assad and some of the most influential members of his clan are sole authority to order the use of chemical weapons.
The order is then sent to the heads of the relevant branches of the ESRB. In parallel, the staff of the armed receives the order and decide targets, weapons and toxic to implement.
NATO head “personally convinced” about allegations
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday that “a firm international response” was needed to the alleged chemical weapons attack in east Damascus.
“We believe that these unspeakable actions which claimed the lives of hundreds of men, women and children cannot be ignored,” Rasmussen told a news conference in Brussels.
“It would send, I would say, a dangerous signal to dictators all over the world if we stand idly by and don’t react,” he said. Rasmussen added that he saw no further role for NATO in the Syria crisis, beyond defending Turkey.
also from –
France to table ‘evidence’ of chemical attack in Syria
02.09.2013 Deutsche Welle (DW)
The German intelligence agency has enough evidence in its possession to conclude President Bashar Assad ordered the suspected chemical attack in Syria, Germany’s Der Spiegel reports, quoting the results of a secret security briefing.
Schindler reportedly said in the meeting only the Syrian government were in possession of such agents as sarin. The agency’s experts concluded it was used in large amounts in the Ghouta incident resulting in massive fatalities. Sarin is a neurotoxic gas, high doses of which can lead to paralysis, loss of consciousness, convulsions, respiratory failure, and eventually death.
In further conclusions, the BND said only Syrian government experts could mix sarin and place it inside small rockets. The process reportedly took place several times prior to the alleged attack which sparked the investigation.
The BND apparently cited new evidence to conclude the agent used was sarin, having intercepted communications between a high level Hezbollah official and Iran’s embassy.
In the tapped call, a doctor described details of patient symptoms specific to exposure to the internationally outlawed gas.
German intelligence concludes sarin gas used on Assad’s orders – reports
Published time: September 02, 2013 19:06
Edited time: September 02, 2013 20:50
A total of 14 attempted purchases by Syria were turned down since 1998 by Switzerland’s export-control watchdog, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, its spokeswoman Marie Avet said.
Among the contested items were a bioreactor, an industrial vacuum pump, and valves.
Syria sought WMD material in Switzerland: official
Voting Against Obama on Syria Would Be ‘Catastrophic,’ McCain Warns
Posted at 4:01 p.m. today (09-02-13)
On Monday Mr Ayrault made public France’s nine-page report into the incident, drawn up by military and foreign intelligence services.
The use of chemical weapons can only be authorised by President Assad or “certain influential members of his clan”, says the report, while opposition forces lack the capacity to carry out such a large-scale chemical attack.
Syrian government behind ‘massive chemical attack’
2 September 2013 Last updated at 16:21 ET
Assad Regime Asks U.N. to Protect Syria From U.S. “Agression” http://slate.me/1e7IZuV
Crossing the Line
by Steve Coll September 9, 2013
In Iraq, starting in 2006, Chemical Ali went on trial for mass murder and other crimes against humanity. The proceedings were undeniably flawed. Yet they put Majid’s murderous arrogance on full display to his countrymen, and guaranteed that the record of his guilt can never be obscured. He was hanged in 2010. The prospect of even such rough justice for Syria’s chemical bombers looks elusive. Yet Obama’s original instincts were sound. There are red lines even in a war as devoid of clarity as Syria’s. The best available evidence is that on August 21st Bashar al-Assad’s forces crossed to the other side.
Russia is one of Assad’s biggest arms suppliers and has a naval maintenance facility in the Syrian port of Tartous. Moscow opposes any military intervention in Syria and has shielded Damascus from pressure at the UN security council.
Interfax said the Priazovye would be operating separately from a navy unit permanently stationed in the Mediterranean in a deployment that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said is needed to protect national security interests.
Russia sends spy ship as US prepares for possible Syria strike
Priazovye sails from Black Sea naval base as Vladmir Putin says deployment necessary to protect Russian security interest
Vladimir Putin said the ship was needed to protect national security interests. Russia has a naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartous
- theguardian.com, Monday 2 September 2013 04.49 EDT
UK – 2013 – (In fact, the licenses were granted in January 2012 despite known sanctions, bans and embargoes against Syria which meant it was unlawful to sell, buy, import, export or trade anything with Syria after that point in 2011 (and in 2007 onwards too for that matter.)
In a letter to the business secretary, Vince Cable, to be sent on Monday, a member of the House of Commons’ committee on arms export controls will demand to know who was allowed to sell the chemicals and what other licences for the export of dangerous materials to Syria have been granted.
But Docherty has written to Cable demanding to know more about deals with Syria, writing: “How many licences for the export of chemicals have been issued not only in the period in question but in the wider period since the start of the Syrian civil war?”
Commenting on the reports, which were first published in the Sunday Mail, Labour’s shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna MP, said: “The chair of the joint intelligence committee confirmed last week that their assessment was that the Syrian regime had used lethal chemical weapons on 14 occasions from 2012. There are, therefore, very serious questions to answer as to why, in January 2012, export licences for chemicals to Syria which could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons were approved.
Ministers face questions over licensing of chemical exports to Syria
Labour MP Thomas Docherty asks in letter to Vince Cable which civil servants knew materials could be used in nerve agents
- theguardian.com, Sunday 1 September 2013 20.28 EDT
from wikipedia –
Early in 2012, Russia took a strong stand in support of Syria’s government and against international action—promoted by Western and Arab countries—to punish the government for its crackdown on the Syrian uprising. As one of five veto-wielding members of UN Security Council, Russia promised to veto any sanctions against the Syrian government put before the Security Council and continued supplying large amounts of arms that Syria had earlier contracted to buy.
The Syrian port city of Tartus hosts a Soviet-era naval supply and maintenance base, under a 1971 agreement with Syria. The base was established during the Cold War to support the Soviet Navy’s fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.
Since Russia forgave Syria of three-fourths, or $9.8 billion, of its $13.4 billion Soviet-era debt and became its main arms supplier, Russia and Syria have conducted talks about allowing Russia to develop and enlarge its naval base, so that Russia can strengthen its naval presence in the Mediterranean.
Amid Russia’s deteriorating relations with the West, because of the 2008 South Ossetia War and plans to deploy a US missile defense shield in Poland, President Assad agreed to the port’s conversion into a permanent Middle East base for Russia’s nuclear-armed warships.
Since 2009, Russia has been renovating the Tartus naval base and dredging the port to allow access for its larger naval vessels.
Syria for the past few years has reached out to Russia to obtain modern weapons that included many modern anti-tank and anti-air missile systems that will further improve its combat capabilities.
In 2008, Syria agreed to purchase MiG-29SMT fighters, Pantsir S1E air-defense systems, Iskander tactical missile systems, Yak-130 aircraft, and two Amur-1650 submarines from Russia. Russia’s foreign minister said his country’s sale of weapons to Syria would not upset the balance of power in the Middle East.
The sales he stated are “in line with the international law” and “in the interests of strengthening stability and maintaining security” in regions close to Russian borders, Sergei Lavrov told reporters during a visit to the United Nations in New York.
Dmitri Trenin reports in the New York Times that from 2000 to 2010 Russia sold around $1.5 billion worth of arms to Syria, making Damascus Moscow’s seventh-largest client.
from Russia-Syria Relations (wikipedia entry)
This actually turned out to be very interesting – where the Russians have a military / naval base in Syria –
Tartus – wikipedia entry
Russian naval facility in Tartus
Tartus is the last Russian military facility outside the former Soviet Union, and its only Mediterranean repair and replenishment spot, sparing Russia’s warships the trip back to their Black Sea bases through the Turkish Straits.
In late November 2011, Pravda and Reuters announced that a naval flotilla led by the aircraft carrier Kuznetsov was on its way to the naval facility in Tartus as a show of support for the al-Assad government. In the same report, the Russian Navy said that a visit to its support facility in Tartus had nothing to do with the events in Syria.
On 3 August 2012 international media reported that three large Russian amphibious assault ships, carrying hundreds of marines would soon visit the port of Tartus in Syria. Earlier reports, quoting a source at the Russian General Staff, said the ships would spend a few days in Tartus and would take on fresh supplies of food and water. British media added that the ships each had up to 120 marines on board. The Russian defence ministry left open the possibility that the ships might dock there at some point for logistical reasons, saying they had every right to do so. The General Staff source, who was not named, had said that after calling in at Tartus they would head for the Bosphorus and the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.
The ships, part of Russia’s Northern Fleet, are the Aleksandr Otrakovskiy, the Georgiy Pobedonosets and the Kondopoga, all Ropucha class landing ships. The source, quoted by Interfax news agency, said one would anchor off Tartus and the other two would use a floating dock, because the port facilities were limited. There is speculation that Russia may begin evacuating its nationals from Syria and deploy marines to protect personnel and equipment, as the violence intensifies. Some 30,000 Russian citizens live in Syria, according to the New York Times and Financial Times.
As of mid-January 2013 there have been no reports of the Russian Navy either actually landing any naval infantry in Tartus or evacuating any Russian citizens using naval vessels. The evacuation of approximately 80 citizens via Beirut on 23 January 13 has been reported.
As of May 2013, Russia has sent a dozen or more warships to patrol waters near its naval facility.
According to Russia Today, on 26 June 2013 Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bogdanov reported that the facility does not have any strategic military importance and that Russia decided to evacuate all civilian and military personnel from Tartus . This information was denied by Russian Defense Ministry on 27 June 2013. It was announced through a ministerial statement that “Tartus is still the official base for Russian ships in the Mediterranean and continues to carry out the tasks in the fulfillment of its missions”.
From 2012 – (has pictures)
Russian warships ‘ready to sail for Syria’
Published time: June 18, 2012 11:45
Edited time: June 18, 2012 17:21
From May 2013 – (click on the video tab)
Russia Raises Stakes in Syria
Assad Ally Bolsters Warships in Region; U.S. Sees Warning
May 16, 2013, 11:07 p.m. ET
BY ADAM ENTOUS AND JULIAN E. BARNES IN WASHINGTON AND GREGORY L. WHITE IN MOSCOW
Russia has sent a dozen or more warships to patrol waters near its naval base in Syria, a buildup that U.S. and European officials see as a newly aggressive stance meant partly to warn the West and Israel not to intervene in Syria’s bloody civil war.
Russia’s expanded presence in the eastern Mediterranean, which began attracting U.S. officials’ notice three months ago, represents one of its largest sustained naval deployments since the Cold War.
fastFT: UN Secretary General to brief members on Syria http://on.ft.com/19dfkN8
Jan 2013 –
He said that about 1,000 Russian citizens living in Syria wanted to leave the country.
Mr Lavrov said Russia had pulled out the families of diplomats, but there were no immediate plans to reduce embassy staff.
The flights were provided by Russia’s emergencies ministry, and Russian media said doctors and psychologists were aboard.
According to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency, 8,000 Russians are registered with the consulate in Syria
Meanwhile, Turkey has called for humanitarian access to Syrian cities, warning that about three million people do not have shelter, water or food.
More than 60,000 people are believed to have died in the 22-month-old uprising against President Assad.
Russia’s Lavrov says Beirut flights not Syria evacuation
23 January 2013 Last updated at 07:55 ET
August 2013 – (after the chemical weapons were used) –
“‘Chemical weapons’ use in Syria, whoever has done it, is a criminal action and must be condemned. This is Iran’s clear and absolute position,” Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Facebook page.
“Did all those countries, which make a lot of noise today, have the same position when Saddam Hussein killed many civilians by chemical bombs in [the Iranian town of] Sardasht?” Mr Zarif added on his Facebook wall.
Sardasht, a small town in the Iranian province of West Azerbaijan, was the first place where civilians were attacked with chemical weapons by the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War some 25 years ago.
On 28 June 1987, Iraqi aircrafts dropped mustard gas bombs on Sardasht in two separate attacks on four residential areas.
The birds started dropping off the trees and then the people fell”
Peyman Survivor of Iran-Iraq War
Syria crisis: Iran treads fine line on conflict
By Mohsen Asgari BBC News, Tehran
30 August 2013 Last updated at 12:52 ET
“The options that we are considering are not about regime change,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.”
Sarin has deadly history with Nazis, Iraq, Aum Shinrikyo
Sarin, the deadly nerve gas that the United States says was unleashed last month by the Syrian regime in a Damascus suburb, was developed by Nazi scientists in 1938.
Egypt, Soviets allegedly helped Damascus create vast stockpile
Syria chemical arsenal huge
Sep 2, 2013
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington has proof the regime of President Bashar Assad used sarin, a lethal nerve gas that kills in minutes developed by Nazi scientists in 1938.
“In the last 24 hours, we have learned through samples that were provided to the United States and that have now been tested from first responders in East Damascus, hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin,” Kerry told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
France said Sunday it will soon declassify secret defense documents detailing Syria’s chemical arsenal in defiance of international conventions.
A government source made the comment after the Journal du Dimanche weekly said French intelligence agents had compiled information showing that some of the weapons had been stockpiled for nearly 30 years.
The arsenal included over 1,000 tons of chemical agents, the paper said.
According to the Sunday newspaper, the arsenal included sarin and mustard gas. The secret documents showed that Syrian scientists had also worked to develop a powerful agent that was far more toxic that sarin.
Syrian Navy – wikipedia (has list of ships and number of each plus two inactive submarines)
- two Romeo class submarines (inactive).
- Al Assari 1-508
- Al Hirasa 2-508
- 8 Osa I
- 12 Osa II
- 10 Tir II (IPS 18) – believed to be local produced by Maritime Industries Group or copies of North Korean patrol boats
- Patrol craft
- 8 Zhuk class patrol boat are 45′ inshore vessels
- 6 MIG-S-1800 class – monohull and catamaran produced by Maritime Industries Group with longer variants (S-1900, and S-2600)
- Amphibious warfare vessels:
- Mine warfare vessels :
- Naval aviation:
- 618th Maritime Warfare Squadron
- PRC C-802
- USSR P-5 Pyatyorka (SS-N-1 Sepal)[verification needed]
- USSR P-15 Termit (SS-N-3 Styx)
- RUS K-300P Bastion-P / P-800 Yakhont (2 systems delivered in 2011)
- USSR M1954 (M-46)
Syria – Financial (in USD)
Defense Budget = $2,500,000,000 (2012)
External Debt = $8,196,000,000 (2011)
Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold = $14,830,000,000 (2012)
Purchasing Power Parity = $107,600,000,000 (2012)
Labor Force = 5,642,000 workers (2012)
Military Strength of Syria –
The Syrian Military Has Benefited from Decades of Soviet / Russian Relations
article and information by Staff Writer at Global Firepower .com
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Syria Receives More Russian SS-N-26 Yakhont Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles
Syria has received another batch of SS-N-26 Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles from Russia. Syria had ordered the missiles in 2007 in a deal worth about $300 million and deliveries from Russia began in 2011.
The supersonic and sea-skimming Yakhont is the export version of the domestic 3M-55 Oniks (Onyx) developed by Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya.
Russia has been asked to stop arms deliveries to Syria, including the S-300PMU2 air-to-surface missiles. Russia had in the past suspended some deliveries, such as the Syrian purchase of MiG-29M fighter aircraft.
NATO chief calls for intervention in Syria
- Date 02.09.2013
- Author Bernd Riegert / gb
- Editor Nicole Goebel
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (pictured above) did not beat around the bush at a press conference in Brussels on Monday (02.09.2013). In his view there is no doubt that Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, let hundreds of innocent Syrians be killed in a poison gas attack on August 21.
“Personally, I am not only convinced that the chemical weapons attack occurred, but also that the regime in Syria was responsible,” Rasmussen told journalists.
Without going into detail, Rasmussen said he had seen intelligence information that left no other conclusion.
A small, Kyrgyzstan-based airline is helping Tehran “move suspected illicit cargo” to support Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown in Syria, the US Treasury Department says.
KTA was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to Mahan Air, by leasing aircraft to Mahan Air.
KTA has been publicly identified as an umbrella company purposely established for importing aircraft to Iran. In this regard, between 2009 and 2010, KTA acted as an intermediary for Mahan Air’s acquisition of eight aircraft, all of which are now identified by Treasury as blocked property operated by Mahan Air.
Some of the aircraft supplied by KTA to Mahan Air are used, interchangeably, to move suspected illicit cargo to the Syrian regime and provide civilian passenger flights to Europe and Asia.
Kyrgyz Airline Ferrying “Illicit” Iranian Cargo to Assad – US Treasury
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated the terrorist group Hizballah for providing support to the Government of Syria, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13582, which targets the Government of Syria and its supporters. This action highlights Hizballah’s activities within Syria and its integral role in the continued violence the Assad regime is inflicting on the Syrian population.
In addition to the actions taken against the IRGC-QF and Qasem Soleimani in 2011 under E.O. 13572, the United States has repeatedly exposed Iran’s support for the ongoing violence perpetrated by the Syrian government.
In June 2011, Treasury designated Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) which, like the IRGC-QF, provided material support to the Syrian GID;
the LEF also dispatched personnel to Damascus to assist the Syrian government in its efforts to suppress the Syrian people.
In February 2012, Treasury designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, Iran’s primary intelligence organization, for providing substantial technical assistance to the Syrian GID.
With actions such as today’s designation, Treasury will continue to expose Iran’s provision of support to the Government of Syria as well as its continued support of Hizballah’s activities within Syria and throughout the region.
Treasury Targets Hizballah for Supporting the Assad Regime
and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei-confidante Mehdi Taeb said that Syria is Iran’s “35th province…if we lose Syria we won’t be able to hold Tehran.” Without Iranian military aide and financial largesse, al-Assad’s regime may have fallen long ago.
While Iran’s major role in Syria is undeniable, it is impossible to discern Tehran’s precise financial and military assistance to the al-Assad regime. According to official estimates, Iran’s annual trade with Syria is only around $700 million per year, which is less than half of its trade with Afghanistan and a small fraction of its $30 billion trade with China. This figure, however, does not take into account the subsidized oil Iran has provided Syria since 1982, when Damascus agreed to close Iraq’s oil pipeline through Syrian territory.
Since the tumult began in Syria, Iranian financial largesse has been ever more critical. In January 2013, Syrian state media announced a $1 billion “credit facility agreement” with Iran. Five months later, Syrian officials announced that Iran would provide Damascus an additional $3.6 billion line of credit “to finance the purchase of petrol and associated products.”
Iran’s Unwavering Support to Assad’s Syria
(Definitely worth reading – good analysis and information)
Also very worth reading –
Your Labor Day Syria Reader, Part 2: William Polk