I think this sums it up quiet well:
“Nothing impresses anymore: killing entire families by smashing their skulls or slashing their throats, pounding residential neighborhood with tanks, missiles, choppers and heavy artillery, burning people alive, commanding snipers to target children… nothing! The world remains indifferent to our suffering. After all, it’s nothing people haven’t seen before. Just another dictator torturing and killing his people, so what! So what!”
Ammar Abdulhamid a liberal democracy activist
And there are signs of ethnic cleansing:
“In the mountains along the coast, where Sunni, Alawite, Christian, Kurdish and Turkmen communities intermingle, pro-Assad militias have conducted a major raid against Sunni communities (namely the villages of Al-Kabaneh and ‘Akko) near the town of Slenfehin Al-Akrad Mountain. The ensuing clashes left at least 2 dead and drove hundreds away from their homes, as pro-Assad militias ransacked their homes. Another troubling report from the Coast comes from the city of Jablehwhere local activists say that walls have recently been constructed to separate Sunni and Alawite neighborhoods. The Sunnis represent a little less than 30% of the local population and seldom venture out of their neighborhoods at this stage, as they are often subject to harassment and arrests. Pro-Assad militias, made up mostly of Alawite inhabitants, periodically ransack and loot their shops”
The issue of ethnic cleansing in the coastal regions and surrounding mountains is something that requires careful monitoring, because, regardless of what people say about the viability or non-viability of an Alawite state, most pro-Assad militias seem to have adopted a philosophy that calls for cleansing their traditional strongholds of Sunnis, irrespective of whether the end product is the creation of an Alawite state or not. It’s a philosophy inspired in part by pure sectarian vindictiveness (preventative vindictiveness to be specific), and in another by a just-in-case mentality. In either case, it’s a dire foreteller of things to come.”
The Russian strategic interest and massive support in all shapes and form goes way back to the1950s and Soviet times.
Most of the Syrian political and military “structures” where modelled after the Soviet ideas and structures and Soviet methods. Done to the smallest lever and minute detail.
The command structure, which used to be modelled on that of France, was restructured after that of the Soviet Union. Some uniforms, such as the army combat clothing, have been changed to resemble Soviet prototypes. Etc.
Virtually all Syrians sent abroad for military training went to the Soviet Bloc and all foreign instructors have come from there. A Soviet style ”political department” was introduced to assure ideological homogeneity among the soldiers and officers. The Syrian military introduced a fourth service, the Air-Defence Command, patterned on the Soviet Troops of Air Defence. Etc.
And Soviet personnel have taken over military operations within Syria in emergencies. During the 1973 war with Israel, the headquarter staffs of a Soviet airborne division was flown to Damascus to prepare for the defence of that city.
Soviet pilots flew combat missions in Syrian airplanes and operated a reconnaissance squadron of MiG-25s in the 1970s with their own soviet ground crews. Etc.
The Syrians acquire over 95 percent of their weapons, some of them extremely advanced, from the Soviet Union. A practice that goes on still to day with Russia.
In the mid 1980s, Syria has contracted for $19 billion in Soviet military hardware.
For example, Syria had the most sophisticated and densest Soviet-supplied air defence system outside the Soviet Union.
This air-defence network in Syria was (and is) linked electronically to stations in the Soviet Union/Russia. And to Soviet/Russian ships in the Mediterranean. Making Syria an integral part of the Soviet/Russian security apparatus. The Soviets had ”hands on” control of air activity based in Syria: according to U.S. intelligence. All of the radar data, missile readiness status, interceptor aircraft conditions-such as fuel and armaments-and other battle information that is fed into central command posts in Syria will also be displayed for Soviet/Russian generals in the Soviet Union/Russia via space relayed transmissions.
And at all times, there was a huge number of Soviet/Russian troops, advisors, technicians etc, more than in any other Third Worldcountry.
Not to forget the Soviet/Russian bases in Syria. Soviet submarines operating in the Mediterraneanwhere based primarily at Tartus and their naval airplanes have access to the Tiyas field etc
Syrian leaders consistently and closely identified with Soviet goals. For example, Syria was one of very few states freely choosing to vote at the UN in favour of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. And it agreed with the Soviet Union on every issue in the UN etc.
Damascus supported all the causes of the Soviet bloc and in return, Syria’s received support from the whole Soviet bloc. Just one example, when Syria needed military help in 1973 and 1974, Cuba provided tank operators, MiG- and helicopter pilots.
Another example, the 1980 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, created a ”strategic alliance between the two great forces of socialism and national liberation.” So the Syrian-Soviet ties were VERY CLOSE.
And the Soviet Union and now Russia built up and trained, and supervised, the Syrian intelligence and internal protection forces.
One example: In mid-1980, at the peak of a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood, 500 KGB advisors were training Syrian intelligence officers at an army base south of Damascus. Other Syrians went to the Soviet Union for similar training. A few days after the rebellion in Hama erupted in 1982, the chief of Syrian internal security, ‘Ali Duba, requested help from the Soviets. Twelve Soviet officers, experts in street fighting, went to Hama, where three of them were killed.
Somewhere between 20 000 to 40 000 civilians, from the youngest child to the oldest person – no “discrimination” in killing here, were slaughtered in Hama in February 1982. The Syrian army, under the orders of the president, Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth operation against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad. The Hama massacre was carried out by the Syrian Army under General Rifaat al-Assad, president Assad’s younger brother.
So to recapitulate:Soviet Union trained, “advised” and took part with the troops that slaughtered the civilians in Hama. Besides supplying the weapons used.
There was another massacre in Hama in April 1981. The Syrian, Alawite dominated, army massacred about 400 of the Sunni Hama’s inhabitants, chosen randomly among the male population over the age of 14.
As you can see, it is really a “family affair” and a tradition of the Assad’s. And the “business model” seems to be slaughter of civilians.
But enough of background, lets go to present times.
As we have already established, first theSoviet Union, and nowRussia, have a long history of massive support and protection of the Assad’s and the Syrian regime.
So let’s start with the arms.
Russian arms STILL accounts for around 95 % of Syrian weapons imports
According to the latest “official” figures just released by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute):
“Russia supplied 78 per cent of Syria’s imports in 2007–11. During 2011 Russia continued deliveries of Buk-M2E SAM systems and Bastion-P coastal defence missile systems to Syria, as well as securing an order for 36 Yak-130 trainer / combat aircraft. These deliveries contributed to a 580 per cent increase in the volume of Syrian arms imports between 2002–2006 and 2007–11.”
Nearly $1bn worth of Russian missiles and aircraft upgrades were reportedly sold to Syria in 2011, while shipments of smaller weapons have been harder to trace.
The second biggest supplier in 2007-2011 was Belarus, which supplied 17% of the total.
Remember that the Belarus weapons in reality are Russian weapons.
The third one was Iran with 5% of imported weapons to Syria. Some of these weapons are also Russian.
And remember, as I said in my previous posts, one of the weapons used by the Syrian regime in Homs was the Russian 240mm F-864 high explosive mortar bomb. The world’s largest high explosive mortar bomb designed to “demolish fortifications and fieldworks” according to a Russian arms merchandizing catalogue. It weighs 130 kilograms and contains 31.93 kilograms of TNT as an explosive charge.
This weapon system is notable for its capability to conduct a “plunging attack,” in which the munition is fired at a high angle and comes down nearly perpendicular to penetrate a building or fortification.
This is the same weapon that Russia used to destroy Grozny in 1994-96. And now they have passed on these “skills” to the Syrians.
Remember also that Russia has blocked every attempt of a UN arms embargo.
“In addition, SIPRI experts point out that the main importer of weapons to Syria – Russia – ignores the UN proposal to impose an embargo on arms supplies to Syria and plans further deliveries, including 24 combat aircraft MiG-29M2 and 36 Yak-130.”
Virtually all of Moscow’s arms sales are processed by the state-owned corporation Rosoboronexport, the Russian treasury have much to gain from a spike in Syrian arms deals.
Here is an example of the length Russia will go to break the arms embargo:
Russia boosts arms sales to Syria despite world pressure
In January, the Russian ship Chariot, loaded with arms and ammunition, was halted during a refuelling stop in Limassol, Cyprus. It gave reassurances it was not travelling to Syria. However, after being released, the ship dropped off the tracking systems and radar and sailed quietly to the Syrian port of Tartus.
To avoid attracting the attention of world powers increasingly frustrated byRussia and China’s refusal to back U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at ending violence,
“But rebel soldiers and an official who defected from the government say Moscow’s small arms trade with Damascusis booming, and the government doubled its military budget in 2011 to pay for the crackdown on the opposition.
”I would say that on average the funds (for Defence Ministry expenditure) were doubled for 2011,” said Mahmoud Suleiman Haj Hamad, the former chief auditor for Syria‘s Defence Ministry who defected in January.
He said by telephone from Cairo that Russian arms accounted for 50 percent of all deals before Assad’s crackdown on the protesters. China and North Korea provided 30 percent, and Iran and other suppliers 20 percent, he said.
The government had boosted its defence budget and arms imports by cutting funds to other ministries in areas such as education and health by as much as 30 percent, he said.
”Before the uprising, Russia was trading weapons with Syria in a more limited manner. More recently … Russia began giving more weapons to Syria,” he said.
”To my knowledge, Russia was shipping monthly,” he said, referring to deliveries prior to his defection last month.
Thomson Reuters shipping data shows at least four cargo ships since December that left the Black Sea port of Oktyabrsk - used by Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport for arms shipments - have headed for or reached the Syrianport of Tartous.
Separately was the Chariot, a Russian ship which docked at the Cypriot port of Limassol during stormy weather in mid-January. It promised to change its destination in accordance with a European Union ban on weapons to Syria but, hours after leaving Limassol, reset its course for Syria.
A Cypriot source said it was carrying a load of ammunition and a European security source said the ship was hauling ammunition and sniper rifles of the kind used increasingly by Syrian government forces against protesters.
The source also said Russian manufacturers had increased production to meet the demand from Syria. The ship’s owner Westberg said that the ship was carrying a ”dangerous cargo.”
Syria hosts a Russian naval facility on its Mediterranean coast, a rare outpost abroad forMoscow’s military. Damascus has also been a loyal Russian arms customer since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when it used Soviet-made weapons against Israelwhich was largely supplied by theUnited States.
Numerous Russian weapons advisers work in Syria and Rosoboronexport has an office with a staff of about 20 in the country, a source close to the company said.
CAST, a Moscow-based defence think tank, says Russia sent Syria at least $960 million worth of heavy arms – which included several missile systems – in 2011 and has some $4 billion in outstanding contracts.
Hamad, the former military auditor, said many sales of Russian small arms are carried out through traders. It was not clear if they had the Kremlin’s blessing to trade the weapons.
Soviet arms are also sold by other states that have stockpiles of Soviet-era weapons that can be confused with arms coming from Russia.
”I know that Syria is paying for some of the weapons through traders and middlemen, not through contracts between states,” said Hamad.
But shipments of Russian arms to Syria have become so frequent that rebel soldiers try to track the deliveries from Syria’s ports to military bases in the interior.
A former army lieutenant who defected in August and gave his name only as Omar explained how he and dozens of other fighters use a network of port workers to find out when shipments of arms arrive and where they are going, sometimes ambushing convoys.
”Every few weeks, trucks move weapons from the coast to bases in the interior,” he said. ”Almost all of them are Russian.”
Another example from December 2011:
“Expanded Russian military and diplomatic support for the Assad regime was underscored by the deployment Friday, Dec. 16 (2011), of advanced Moscow-supplied Yakhont (SSN-26) shore-to-sea missiles along Syria‘s Mediterranean shore to fend off a potential Western-Turkish invasion by sea. Last week, Russia airlifted to Syria 3 million face masks against chemical and biological weapons and the Admiral Kutznetsov carrier and strike group was sent on its way to Syria‘s Mediterranean port of Tartus.
Russian naval sources in Moscow stressed that the flotilla is armed with the most advanced weapons against submarines and aerial attack. Upon arrival, the Russian craft will launch a major marine-air maneuver in which Syrian units will take part.
Syria has received from Russia 72 Yakhont missiles able to hit marine targets up to a distance of 300 kilometers – i.e., over the horizon, our military sources report. The missile’s radar remains inert, making it hard to detect, until it is close to target. It is then switched on to guide its aim.
Its high speed – 2,000 kmh – enables the Yakhont to strike before its target has time to activate self-defense systems.
Thursday night, in response to the deployment of 21 Syrian Scuds on the Turkish border, including five with chemical warheads, Ankara convened its top military council and declared its armed forces ready for war. Syria also rushed armored reinforcements to the Jordanian border.”
The 50 Pantsyr-S1 interceptor batteries, now the backbone of Syrian air and missile defenses, which Moscow sold Syria. And that Russian military crews have since mid-January taken over their operation from Syrian personnel.
The only Russian naval base in the Middle East is Tartus, a deep-water military port in Syria. And Moscow has been restoring and upgrading that base since 2008. It also has permanently stationed ships and troops there.
And do the Russian have any intention of stopping the accelerated arms export to Syria? On the contrary, they boldly states that they will continue:
The Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed in a speech to Russia’s lower house of parliament in the beginning of March, with a straight face, that Russian weapons sent to Syria were for “external threats” and have not been used against civilians or peaceful demonstrators.
And on March 14, Russia‘s Deputy Defence Minister insisted his government would not halt weapons sales to Damascus. Despite the US and Europe imposing arms embargoes, Anatoly Antonov insisted that Russia’s deals with Syria were ”perfectly legitimate” and would continue.
“Russia enjoys good and strong military technical co-operation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it. Russian-Syrian military co-operation is perfectly legitimate,” said Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov. “It’s part of our contractual obligations. When we supply weapons, we have to provide training
Despite this growing evidence that the arms it sells the regime are being used against civilians, Russia remains defiant. ”Russia enjoys good and strong military technical co-operation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it,” Mr Antonov said yesterday. ”Russian-Syrian military co-operation is perfectly legitimate,” he added. Mr Antonov admitted that Russia has military instructors on the ground in Syria training the Syrian army.
”It’s part of our contractual obligations,” said the minister. ”When we supply weapons, we have to provide training.” He denied thatRussia had sent special forces to assist in military planning.”
And are the Russian government upset with, or in any shape or form protesting the Syrian regimes mass slaughter of unarmed civilians?
Remember that in 1982 they ACTIVELY took part in the slaughter in Hama
On the contrary, they vigorously deny it and defend the Syrian regime.
One small example by Russian Embassy inWashington:
Russia makes its Syria case on Capitol Hill
“That the U.S.and most Western nations are at odds with Russian policy should not come as a surprise. Nevertheless, the manner in which Moscow is shamelessly pushing its case demonstrates the seriousness with which they view the Syrian issue. Take, for instance, the Capitol Hill briefing on Tuesday afternoon held by the Russian embassy and hosted by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). Led by embassy officials Anton Vushkarnik and Sergey Kuznetsov, they refused to even acknowledge that Bashar al-Assad was killing his own people. They brazenly defended their ongoing sale of arms to the Assad regime by citing that there was no international law that prevents such sales — even though it was Russia and China that vetoed the very UN Security Council resolution that would have put the ban in place.
“The Russian embassy officials refused to acknowledge basic facts about the burgeoning conflict in Syria, including that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to kill his own people. The Russia officials also claimed that an equal number of Syrian civilians have died at the hands of the Syrian opposition.
The Russian officials also defended their country’s ongoing arms sales to the Syrian regime, pointing out that there is no international law preventing such sales. (Of course, it was Russia along with China that vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution that would have instituted such an arms embargo.) “
UN rights council orders extension of Syria probe
”The UN Human Rights Council ordered Friday an extension of a probe into violations inSyria, asking investigators to map out abuses since a deadly crackdown on protests in the country erupted a year ago.
The resolution was passed by the 47-member state council with 41 votes in favor, two abstentions and three — Russia, China and Cuba — against.”
And this glaring example of the deceitful Russian hypocritical attitude when in a statement on March 22, the Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its “deep concern” over human rights violations committed by armed groups affiliated with the Syrian opposition. Extensively citing an open letter on this issue published by Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch also learned that Russian diplomats used the open letter in informal Security Council discussions on March 22 in an attempt to equate the violence by both sides.
Human Rights Watch issued the following statement on March 23, 2012, concerning the Russian Foreign Ministry’s use of a Human Rights Watch statement to support a one-sided position onSyria:
“Since the beginning of the protests in Syria, Human Rights Watch has produced over 60 publications, including three extensive reports, on human rights violations by Syrian government forces. These publications contain detailed documentation of widespread and systematic abuses, including killings of peaceful protesters, shelling of residential neighborhoods, large-scale arbitrary detention and torture, “disappearances,” executions, denial of medical assistance, and looting.
Human Rights Watch concluded that that some of these violations constitute crimes against humanity and repeatedly called for an end to abuses and accountability for the perpetrators. Human Rights Watch presented the findings directly to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, urgingRussia to use its strong bilateral relations with the Syrian government as well as its weight in the international arena to put an end to government abuses.
None of these findings have been ever acknowledged by Russian officials.
Instead, despite overwhelming evidence of egregious crimes committed by the Syrian security forces, Russia provides diplomatic and military support to Bashar al-Assad’s government and has repeatedly blocked international action aimed at stopping the violations and bringing those responsible for these crimes to justice.
Russia should not pick and choose. If it relies on Human Rights Watch’s findings to support its condemnation of abuses by the Syrian opposition, it should pay equal attention to the extensive documentation of violations by government forces and support international efforts to stop those violations.”
Russian anti-personal PMN-2 mines planted by Syria on the border with Turkey
And there is the Russian help to bypass all embargos and sanctions. Since the outbreak of the Syrian protests last March, Russia has undermined every possibility of external intervention. The fact that Russia is continuing to arm and assist the Assad regime makes Russia complicit in the growing list of Syrian government atrocities.
Russia, like China, does not recognize the legitimacy of the oil embargo or the financial sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe.
Western financial sources suspect a number of local Russian banks which have no business dealings with the American banking system may be handling transactions between Syrian, Iranian and Far Eastern banking institutions
Not to mention the veto’s in the UN security council. And the Russians work very had to ensure that there is NO hard conditions put on the Syrian regime.
Russia rejects deadline for Annan’s Syria peace plan
“Russia on Monday rejected Arab and Western calls for a deadline to be set for the Syrian regime’s implementation of a peace plan put forward by international mediator Kofi Annan.
”Ultimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help matters,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said while on a visit to the former Soviet nation of Armenia.
Lavrov added that only the UN Security Council, where Russia wields veto power, could put any time restrictions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s compliance with the six-point initiative.
”Annan has a Security Council mandate and it is up to the UN Security Council to decide who is complying with this plan and how,” he said.
The so-called ”Friends of Syria” meeting of Arab and Western nations in Istanbulagreed this weekend to ask the UN to give Assad a deadline to cooperate with Annan’s solution to the year-long conflict.
The plan itself demands that Assad pull out his forces from major flashpoint cities and introduce a daily two-hour ceasefire that could let aid workers deliver supplies and treat the thousands of injured civilians.
But it puts forward no time frame in which Assad has to comply.
Lavrov said the peace plan would not work unless rebel forces also agreed to halt fire.
”The demands should be put to all sides of the barricades,” Lavrov said.”
Another point of this cooperation:
Russia knew exactly what Assad needed after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service Mikhail Fradkov had paid a visit to Damascus on February 7 and talked to Assad.
While the visit was billed as a Russian bid to persuade him to accept political reforms, “They were seeking to find ways for stabilisation in Syria through democratic reforms.” http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/337363_print.html, it actually focused on the ways and means in which Russia could help the Syrian ruler quickly stamp out the armed revolt against his rule.
Moreover, this move was coordinated with Iran. Iran and Russia have a division of labour so to say between themselves. They have divided who does what in a high-level coordination..
And in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin is claiming as his personal victory the policy of holding the line against American and Western intervention in the Syrian uprising and their attempts to make Assad’s overthrow part of the Arab Spring against autocratic rulers. It was his idea to threaten to deploy Russian troops to Syria to stand in for local units transferred from their regular duties to suppressing dissidence.
And there is the intelligence cooperation and assistance.
In November two Russian (SIGINT) spy satellites monitoring military movements in the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey, Israel and Syria began feeding Syrian president Assad‘s strategists precise intelligence on FSA units in Turkey and rebel concentrations within Syrian cities (military sources report).
This new resource enabled the special syrian forces stationed along the Syria-Turkey border to ambush the deserters moving back and forth, capturing some and liquidating many.
Since Assad gained access to reliable Russian intelligence, he no longer seeks to capture deserters for information and has ordered his troops to shoot them on sight where they stand.
These capabilities was also used to track, destroy an kill the western journalist (Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik) in the makeshift “press centre” in Baba Amr (Homs).
The Russians have a long and expert practice of this, which they showed in Chechnya.
On April 21, 1996, Chechnya’s breakaway president, Dzhokhar Dudayev, was speaking on a satellite phone with Russian envoy Konstantin Borovoi about setting peace talks with Yeltsin. During the phone call, he was killed by a signal-guided missile fired from a Russian jet fighter. The warplane had received Dudayev’s coordinates from a Russian ELINT (electronic intelligence) plane that had picked up and locked on to the signal emitted by the satellite phone. It was Russian deception and brutality at its finest.
The Russians have a electronic and surveillance station at Jabal Al Harrah south of Damascus, They have now upgraded and expanded this complex with advanced technology and manpower. Today, its range extends to all parts of Israel and Jordan, the Gulf of Aqaba and northern Saudi Arabia
One reason behind the expansion was to add resources especially tailored to give Tehran early warning of an oncoming US or Israeli attack. Partly as a response to a complaint from Tehran that it could not longer count on Russiafor a real-time alert on an incoming US or Israeli military strike, because those resources were stretched to the limit in support of the Assad regime.
The Russians have also upgraded the Russian-equipped Syrian radar stationed on Lebanon’s Mount Sannine and connecting it to the Jabal Al Harrah facility in Syria. Russia is now able to track US and Israeli naval and aerial movements in the Eastern Mediterranean, up to and including Cyprus and Greece.
The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kutznetsov’s stay at the Syrian port of Tartus through most of January and up to mid-February had the special mission of keeping an eye out for any Israeli preparations for attacking Iran, Syriaor Hizballah. It filled the gap left by the Russian station south of Damascus which was fully occupied with feeding data on Syrian opposition movements to Bashar Assad and watching out for signs of foreign intervention, military or covert, against his regime.
The Russian vessel meanwhile followed increased traffic of US drone over Syria keeping track of the Syrian arsenal of missiles with chemical, biological and nerve gas warheads.
Moscow ordered the Admiral Kutznetsov to depart Tartus on Feb. 13 and sail to home port at Severomorsk on the Kola Peninsula. The Russian stations in Syria and Lebanon were by then ready for their expanded missions.
Also the Russians have permanently stationed a Russian naval reconnaissance and surveillance ship in their naval base in Tartus.
I think I stop there. You get the picture.
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