News / Middle East

    Report: Assad Claims Delivery of Russian Arms

    Syria President Bashar al-Assad addresses reporters, Dec. 9, 2010 (File)Syria President Bashar al-Assad addresses reporters, Dec. 9, 2010 (File)
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    Syria President Bashar al-Assad addresses reporters, Dec. 9, 2010 (File)
    Syria President Bashar al-Assad addresses reporters, Dec. 9, 2010 (File)
    VOA News
    Lebanese media say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has acknowledged receiving a first shipment of a Russian air defense system that could help him to deter foreign military intervention in his conflict with rebels.

    The reports say Assad claimed to have received the S-300 air defense shipment while speaking with Lebanese TV station Al-Manar in an interview to be broadcast later Thursday.  Al-Manar is run by pro-Assad Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

    There was no independent confirmation of Assad's reported claim and no immediate Russian comment. If confirmed, the delivery of the sophisticated Russian anti-aircraft missiles would represent a major upgrade to Syria's air defenses.

    Russia, a longtime Assad ally, has promised to go ahead with the long-delayed sale of the air defense system, saying it would help Syria to prevent military strikes by anti-Assad foreign forces.

    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon suggested this week that Israel may destroy the S-300s if they are delivered. Israel fears its airspace could be within the range of the surface-to-air missiles, which also could limit its ability to carry out air strikes in Syria to stop weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah.

    Opposition

    In another development, Syria's main opposition coalition said Thursday it will not take part in a U.S. and Russian-proposed peace conference aimed at finding a political solution to Syria's two-year conflict.

    Syrian National Coalition spokesmen said talk of holding such a conference in Geneva next month is "meaningless" in light of what they see as ongoing brutal attacks on the Syrian people by Assad's forces and their Hezbollah and Iranian allies.

    The Assad government has agreed, in principle, to attend peace talks with the opposition. But, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Wednesday Assad will remain president at least until the 2014 elections and may run for another term. The SNC has demanded that Assad step down at the start of any transition process.

    Bob Bowker, a Middle East specialist and professor at the Australian National University, told VOA neither side is likely to look for a political settlement as long as it believes it can win the conflict.

    "And at this moment, the regime certainly believes it will ultimately prevail," Bowker said. "The rebels are a long way from acknowledging that they are not going to win. Each of the contending parties has sufficient external support to keep on going for quite a long time."

    Russia's foreign minister criticized the Syrian National Coalition for demanding Assad's removal as a precondition for talks. Speaking Thursday, Sergei Lavrov said Moscow believes the SNC is doing everything it can to prevent a political process from starting.

    Analyst Peter Harling of the International Crisis group says that Russia's President Putin is playing a delicate balancing act, being on the one hand the most pro-Israeli leader that Russia has known while on the other stepping up his support for the Syrian regime which is long hostile to Israel.

    Harling says that for the time being, the Russians and the Israelis are privately sending reassuring messages to each other.

    Rights activists have estimated that the 26-month Syrian conflict has killed at least 80,000 people.

    VOA's Edward Yeranian in Cairo contributed to this report


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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
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    by: Alzaripov from: Russian Federation
    June 01, 2013 2:22 PM
    It is short-sighted policy to arm both the opposition and B.Assad. Arming both warring parties complicates the conflict and it also means many new victims.

    by: Juluka
    May 31, 2013 12:28 AM
    Yip the truth speaks for itself, get yourself to the frontline with the men and then you will understand the bigger picture, easy to talk from the chair.

    by: Juluka
    May 30, 2013 2:41 PM
    Safe in Manchester whilst the British Army is operationally deployed far from home. Perhaps you need to serve on the
    front line and then make public your experiences, rather than
    you are now doing, from the safety of your chair?
    In Response

    by: Julian Leonard from: Manchester UK
    May 30, 2013 8:17 PM
    You're suggesting that the only people qualified to voice an opinion are those who've served on some front line?

    That'd exclude about 99% of the UK population...including about 80% of the Armed Forces, (as only about 20% are actually 'front line', the rest being in some supportive role).

    Either way I think that'd be the definition of a society run along the lines of a military Junta...hardly a progressive idea now, is it?

    Armchair? lol.

    by: Haron from: Afghanistan
    May 30, 2013 2:19 PM
    i think USA lost its' prestige, Economic, democratic policies. instead of searching for a solution in Syria. they must to solve their inside problem. USA lost 500 Trillion dollars with 3,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. what USA received the award from International communities? most of European countries reject the rebel arming.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    May 30, 2013 1:43 PM
    An insolent demand that Assad be excluded from talks to resolve issues in a country where he is president. The SNC is really not serious about peace in Syria. As for delivery of missiles, Assad must be preemptive and proactive, even if to boast it seeing how much it scares the West - or are they just pretending? What everybody is confused about is the chemicology revolving around Russia, Iran/Hezbollah, Syria and Israel. No love lost, assured, but how did the moderate Assad suddenly become such as juggernaut that every westerner can no longer sleep until he is removed?

    International diplomacy should grow beyond the parochialism of partnering only countries that must agree on all things while every other country differing must be destroyed at all costs. The inability of the west to see the world as it is constituted in plurality is the heat. Syria had previously presented an advantage in moderating issues in the ME and Asia and should not be thrown away now because it is re-balancing. Help Syria to stand up again by bringing the feuding parties to table to discuss the way forward and save lives of people facing guns, hunger and insecurity everyday - men, women and children - minority and majority peoples alike.
    In Response

    by: Julian Leonard from: Manchester UK
    May 30, 2013 3:36 PM
    I agree with you.

    The West wants either total domination of a countries political system or, if it can't achieve that, it seeks to bring chaos to that country, presumably in order to stop that country ever reaching a political, economic and social maturity which may help bring about a truly multi-polar world.

    The West is run by devils!

    by: Julian Leonard from: Manchester UK
    May 30, 2013 11:57 AM
    Israel has free and fair elections and if anyone on the left is elected and seeks peace they are shot dead and if anyone on the right sees the light and seeks peace they 'fall into a coma'! And quite what do these elections change or bring about? Netanyahu was PM in the 1990's, here he is again. The faces in Israeli politics change no more in the course of a generation than those faces do in Syrian politics!

    Like those old-time fairground machines where you dropped a penny through a chute with the hope of causing a final cascade of overhanging money on a sweeping platform, the mechanism of democracy, though noble, is largely a triumph of illusion over probability. Either way, the legitimacy of any Israeli Government, whether I agree with its politics or not, has no right under international law to attack, invade, occupy, build upon, suppress, evict, arrest, lay siege to, segregate other peoples and other territories.
    In Response

    by: Jewzi from: Israel
    May 30, 2013 1:25 PM
    Kind of makes me laugh. When Nazi Germany was occupying peoples land and massacring them everyone came and rescued these jews. Now when they do it too other people no one cares.

    by: Stephen
    May 30, 2013 11:56 AM
    Firstly the ICC at the Hague has failed in not having this dictator cited for war crimes along with his commanders. However there is still time for them to take a stand against him and show the world they do have what it takes to stop him altogether.
    In Response

    by: Julian Leonard from: Manchester
    May 30, 2013 1:21 PM
    Let's see Netanyahu, Olmert, Livni, Sharon, Kissinger, Bush and Blair in the dock first eh? The Hague seems to only get a chance to parade from the B-list doesn't it? Let's get to the real heart of the matter and haul in the real big players, movers and shakers.

    You think the fig leaf of having won a plebiscite is justification for acts which constitute War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Acts of Illegal Aggression?
    That the people on the list above are walking about society freely is testimony that there are serious dysfunctions in OUR democracy which need addressing before we go about passing judgments on the political systems of others.

    by: Anonymous
    May 30, 2013 10:37 AM
    These weapons will not prevent Bashar al Assad from being served justice for his crimes against the Syrian Nation in the least.

    by: Julian Leonard from: Manchester UK
    May 30, 2013 10:30 AM
    I just think that it's about time the American people woke up to the fact -and acted upon their realisation- that Israel has hijacked its military, economic and political power and that its use, for the purposes of illegal expansion, control and suppression of other peoples and territories, is deeply damaging to its image, standing and to the principles upon which the USA was supposedly founded!

    by: dwight from: d.c.
    May 30, 2013 8:35 AM
    Julian: i take it you didn't believe this biased article.
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