News / Middle East

    Russia Says Missile System for Syria Will Deter Foreign Attacks

    Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system is on display in an undisclosed location in Russia (file photo)
    Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system is on display in an undisclosed location in Russia (file photo)
    VOA News
    A senior Russian diplomat says Moscow plans to provide advanced air defenses to Damascus to deter foreign military action against Syria's pro-Russian government, which is embroiled in a civil war.
     
    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday the planned transfer of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be a "stabilizing factor" for the country. 
     
    Russia's S-300 Missiles

    • Surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile
    • Vertical launch, short deployment time
    • Range up to 150 kilometers
    • 7.5 meters long
    • Developed in the1960s, 1970s by the then-Soviet Union
    • Several variants are manufactured
    He told reporters that Moscow believes the sale will deter what he called "some hotheads" from considering options to send foreign forces to intervene in the Syrian conflict. 
     
    But Ryabkov gave no indication of when Russia will transfer the air defense system. Damascus signed a contract to buy it several years ago. 
     
    Israel and the United States have urged Russia not to proceed with the sale, fearing the air defense system will threaten Israeli security and complicate any military action they may take in Syria.

    Watch related video by Henry Ridgwell:

    Arms Debate Heats Up as Syria War Widensi
    X
    May 28, 2013 8:08 PM
    Amid widening Lebanese involvement in fighting in Syria - witnessed in the battle for the western Syrian town of Qusair -- Russia confirmed Tuesday that it will sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian government. It comes a day after the EU voted to allow the supply of weapons to the Syrian opposition. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
    Israel's warning
     
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon toughened that message on Tuesday, warning of possible retaliation if the Russian missile technology is transferred. 
     
    "Obviously from our perspective it is a threat at this stage," he said. "I cannot affirm that things have been expedited. The shipments are not on their way yet, this I can say. I hope they will not leave and if, God forbid, they reach Syria, we will know what to do."
     
    Western sources said Israel carried out several air strikes in Syria earlier this month, apparently to stop the Syrian government from transferring sophisticated weapons to the pro-Assad Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the strikes. 
     
    The Russian deputy foreign minister also criticized an EU decision to lift its arms embargo on the main opposition Syrian National Coalition while maintaining sanctions against the Syrian government. 
     
    Ryabkov accused the 27-nation bloc of "pouring more fuel on the fire" of Syria's civil war and "damaging" prospects for a U.S. and Russian-proposed peace conference to resolve the two-year conflict. 
     
    EU action
     
    EU Arms Embargo for Syria

    • No longer forbids supplying arms to Syria's opposition forces
    • No immediate arms shipments are planned
    • Safeguards would ensure supplies are for protection of civilians
    • Arms embargo was part of package of sanctions imposed in 2011
    • EU plans further sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's government
    The EU decided to lift the embargo on Syrian rebels at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. But, EU officials gave mixed messages about when such weapons transfers might begin. 
     
    Some officials said all EU members agreed to delay any arming of the rebels until August 1 to allow the U.S.-Russian peace initiative to proceed.
     
    But British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday there is no requirement to wait until August to send weapons, although he reiterated that London has no immediate plans to do so. 
     
    Syrian National Coalition spokesman Louay Safi told the French news agency that the EU move is a "positive step" but may be "too little, too late."
     
    In separate remarks to the news agency, a spokesman for the SNC-backed Free Syrian Army criticized the EU, saying that delaying any arms transfers by two months would leave the Syrian people vulnerable to continued "genocide" by the Assad government. 
     
    Opposition in bind
     
    A boy walks on the rubble of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by Syrian Air Force fighter jets loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Salqin city, Idlib governate, May 28, 2013.A boy walks on the rubble of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by Syrian Air Force fighter jets loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Salqin city, Idlib governate, May 28, 2013.
    x
    A boy walks on the rubble of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by Syrian Air Force fighter jets loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Salqin city, Idlib governate, May 28, 2013.
    A boy walks on the rubble of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by Syrian Air Force fighter jets loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Salqin city, Idlib governate, May 28, 2013.
    Some analysts believe recent events may force the opposition’s hand.  
     
    At the IHS Jane’s security firm, analyst David Hartwell said Assad has been strengthened in recent weeks by the Russian missiles, other weapons from Iran, support from Lebanon's Hezbollah and recent battlefield gains.
     
    “All of these factors appear to be coalescing at this moment in time to give him, or certainly give the appearance, that he can think about long-term survival,” he said.
     
    Hartwell said confidence is up within the Assad regime, and it could press for more military advances in the coming days, including a possible assault on the country’s largest city, Aleppo.  
     
    Syria-watcher Chris Doyle of the Council for Arab-British Understanding said that Assad is in a strong enough position that he might survive politically, at least during a transition period.
     
    “I think that cannot be ruled out, as distasteful as that is, given his record," he said. "If it is symbolic, then maybe that is something that people will have to agree to, while holding their noses.”
     
    Lebanon spillover
     
    Meanwhile, there were more signs of Syria's conflict spilling over into Lebanon with deadly results.
     
    Lebanese security sources said several rockets fired from Syria struck the northeastern Lebanese town of Hermel near the border on Tuesday, killing a woman and wounding several other people. Hermel's Shi'ite population supports Hezbollah militants who have crossed into Syria to fight alongside Assad's troops. 
     
    Lebanese authorities said unknown gunmen also killed three Lebanese soldiers manning a checkpoint near the northeastern village of Arsal before dawn Tuesday.
     
    Lebanese Sunnis have used border villages such as Arsal to send weapons and fighters into Syria to help the country's predominantly Sunni rebels fight the Assad government.
     
    VOA's Al Pessin contributed to this report from London and Michael Lipin from Washington.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: Wilton from: Brazil
    May 30, 2013 11:03 AM
    Several countries have destroyed the Libyan regime. Anyone of you back there to help those people, you were so worried?

    by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
    May 30, 2013 2:35 AM
    If U R brave then give equal power to both partners. ALL TERRORIST in Syria are getting Dollar and Weapons from Queen of Gulf and Terrorist of West. No body can justify to fullfil their dream to bring puppet Govt in Syria at the loss of so many lives and structure.This is big tragedy of this century, just to CHANGE regime,we civilised people destroy one country from all CORNER.

    by: Dustman
    May 29, 2013 12:21 PM
    Igor be careful of that statement - country into dust, Russia has experienced some harsh lessons intself from within and Chechneya
    is an example. Need one say more.

    by: Dr. Hans F from: Germany
    May 29, 2013 3:35 AM
    very silly of Russia to test the Israelis... essentially supplying the West with the chance to expose the limitations of Russian technology... stolen technology... and thereby substantially reducing Russian weapons commercial marketability... very silly move... i would not have thought it possible for Putin to make such a blundering mistake...

    by: Igor from: Russia
    May 28, 2013 11:25 PM
    The S 300 will protect Syria from any air attack from Israel and any invasion from the West. So transfering Syria with such a weapon is legal and acceptable. Israel must be careful with its own warnings and actions. If israel took any military action against the tranference, it would consider itself Russia's enemy and Russia would have every right to punish it with decisive actions to turn its whole country into dust.
    In Response

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    May 29, 2013 6:38 PM
    Igor you are not thinking clearly; if this S-300s fall into terrorist hands, they will be able to shoot down all the airplanes Russia and Iran are using to ferry weapons to their buddy Assad; in addition they will be able to shoot down passager airliners, also Russian and Iranian, they are the only ones flying in and out of Syria. Such weapons are extremely dangerous in a country, like Syria, full of terrorists and criminals on both sides of the conflict. And as far as the advanced rocket launched torpedoes, they too may fall in the wrong hands, and the only ships going in and out of Syria are Russian and Iranian ones, once again if they fall in the wrong hands, it will be your Russian compadres that get killed. Let us hope some one destroys them, as soon as they are landed in Syria.

    by: JR from: BRAZIL
    May 28, 2013 7:46 PM
    I think the moment to do something by NATO or EU is over or at least is very delayed. If something had been done at begning of the conflict a lot of lives would be spared. If they already knew Assad's regim was an assassin government as they say today, why did they stay paralised? Certainly because the trouble was far from Europe.

    by: Ahmed Syed from: USA
    May 28, 2013 6:24 PM
    The Crusading West are hiding their war on Muslims and Syria in defense of Israel behind legalese and diplomatic niceties, whats the difference in helping Al Qaeda or Syrian rebels?

    Its amazing the Crusader mentality still prevails, GOOD FOR RUSSIA, I have respect for you.

    Don't take sides in an internal matter. How would the EU like it if Syria starts supplying weapons to the IRA or the Basque in Spain or some French militant group?
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    May 29, 2013 2:28 AM
    Don't take sides in an internal matter is what Putin wants to hear because someday there will be a revolution in Russia and he doesn't want anyone helping the poor Russian people. Chinese think the same. The biggest terrorist in Syria is Bashar al Assad, he has killed more Syrian civilians than anyone, and has zero respect for human life or even the Nation of Syria. So It's okay for Putin to arm this guy who killed tens of thousands of civilians?

    Now it is every Syrian man for himself to fight against the oppression exdictator Bashar al Assad. I wish we shipped them arms longggg ago this war would of had far less casualties and the war could of been over by now.

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    May 28, 2013 5:16 PM
    The way the Russians are talking, the delivery of the S300's is underway, if not already landed in Syria. The systems can be taken appart and could be transported by heavy lift cargo planes or Russian support ships. The delivery will pose a challenge to the West; essentially the West has once again been dupped by the Russians. The systems are very dangerously destabilizing, especially given that Assad has given a go ahead for Hezbollah and other terrorists to strike Israel. These systems will widen the war.

    by: Anonymous
    May 28, 2013 5:13 PM
    The USA wants to kick Russia out of their last navy base overseas. Tartus.
    In Response

    by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
    May 29, 2013 12:01 AM
    That is how Iraqis and Afghanis kick Americans the hell out of middle east for good!
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    May 28, 2013 10:03 PM
    The Russians are probably never going to be welcome in Syria again once Bashar falls. Afterall what country would ever want to host the Russians after their behaviour in regards to Syria. Most of the innocent Syrians have died from bombs and bullets from Russian planes, helicopters, tanks, missiles, guns and more. If I was a Syrian I'd be campaigning to kick Russia the hell out of Syria for good.

    by: Mai Le Quyen from: Hanoi
    May 28, 2013 12:09 PM
    Ryabkov accused the 27-nation bloc of "pouring more fuel on the fire" of Syria's civil war. So what about the ignorant Russian government has sold deadly weapons to Assad, the demon regime, why Ryabkov seemed too ignorant when accusing other country, you should look at yourself too. Do not behave like a childish. So shameless, you Russian kill Syrian people everyday.
    In Response

    by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
    May 29, 2013 12:02 AM
    who is killing Afghanis every day?
    Comments page of 2
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