The first air-defense missiles from Russia have begun rolling into Syria, according to the the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Speaking on a TV station owned by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad said that Russia will honor its promises to Syria, and had in fact already started to do so (via Rovin):
The Syrian president has told Lebanon’s Hizbollah-owned TV station that Damascus received the first shipment of S300 Russian air defence missiles.
Al-Manar said in a statement that when asked about the promised delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missiles, Assad replied: “All the agreements with Russia will be honoured and some already have been recently.”
Assad’s comment on the arrival of the long-range S-300s in Syria will further ratchet up tensions in the region and undermine efforts to hold UN-sponsored talks with Syria’s warring sides.
The shipments are intended to dissuade the US and NATO from interfering in the Syrian civil war by making a no-fly zone mission more dangerous. That’s not the only danger involved in boosting Syrian air defenses. Israel is looking at the situation very closely and deciding whether to allow Syria to deploy these defenses before they alter the balance of power:
Col Zvika Haimovich of Israel’s air defence corps was separately quoted yesterday as saying that Syria’s air defences were undergoing continuous upgrade even as the conflict rages.
“We are looking at all aspects, from the performance of the weaponry to the way the Syrians are using it. They have used everything that I am aware exists in their missile and rocket arsenal. They are improving all the time, and so are we, but we need to study this, and to be prepared,” he said.
Israel’s defence chief, Moshe Yaalon, said earlier this week that Russia’s plan to supply Syria with the weapons is a threat and that Israel was prepared to use force to stop the delivery.
Meanwhile, the US and Russia are supposed to be getting the two sides to the table in Geneva. Assad has already agreed in principle to attend the peace conference, but John Kerry’s efforts with the rebels seem to have collapsed:
Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group says it will not participate in U.S.-Russian sponsored peace talks while the regime is carrying out massacres in Syria. …
A spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, Khalid Saleh, says an “international conference on a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place.”
The BBC got a more blunt assessment from the rebels:
Meanwhile, the main opposition outside Syria said it would not take part in peace talks while massacres continued.
Speaking in Istanbul where the Syrian National Coalition is meeting, its interim head, George Sabra, said that talk of diplomatic conferences was farcical while Syrian government forces backed by the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah were carrying out heinous crimes.
That’s not all that’s farcical in this dance.