UPDATED 12.18.12 – 20,000 Russian nationals remaining in war-torn Syria…Both Washington and Moscow calculate “Assad in a race” for Syria’s biggest WMD weapons stores
12.18.12 debkafile’s military and Moscow sources report that, while the Russians are undoubtedly concerned with the fate of the 20,000 Russian nationals remaining in war-torn Syria, the type of warships dispatched to Tartus do not fit the description of evacuation craft. They look more like a major Russian naval buildup opposite the Syrian coast.
For one thing, they are larger and more formidable than the Black Sea fleet ships they are relieving: the medium, amphibious assault ships, the Novocherkassk and Saratov, each of which carries 250 marines. The new arrivals each carry 520 marines and 25 amphibious tanks. For another, if it becomes necessary to evacuate large numbers of Russian refugees in a hurry, they are likely to be lifted out by air rather than by sea. Large transports are already on hand, touching down almost daily at Damascus and Aleppo airports with a continuous supply of weapons, ammunition and spare parts for replenishing the army loyal to Bashar Assad. The Russian aircraft are practically the only foreign flights visiting the two beleaguered Syrian airports. While keeping Assad’s army in essential supplies, Moscow is also maintaining a constant presence there against the contingency of having to fly large numbers of Russian civilians out of the country.
debkafile’s sources add that, while some Western quarters depict Russia’s military steps as actuated by the expectation of Assad’s imminent fall, Middle East military and Western intelligence sources see them rather as preparation for the international commotion and fallout arising from the introduction of chemical warfare to the Syrian conflict by the Syrian army or the insurgents.
Both Washington and Moscow calculate that Assad may be in a race against certain rebel units, which are making a dash to lay hands on some of Syria’s biggest chemical and biological weapons stores.
One high-placed Western military source told debkafile Tuesday: “We can no longer be certain which side will use chemical weapons first – the Syrian army or the rebels – or even against whom: targets inside Syria or across its borders.” According to this source, the countries abutting on Syria are deep in discreet though comprehensive military preparations in anticipation of three potential perils:
1. A chemical weapons attack on Turkey, Jordan or Israel and US military facilities present in those countries;
2. The outbreak of chemical warfare between the Syrian army and rebels – both armed with poisonsous substances;
3. Either of those contingencies if close would trigger rapid military action – both by combined Western-Arab forces and Israel – to get hold of Syria’s chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction and put them out of reach of Assad’s army and rebel units alike.
12.8.12: The danger that Syrian ruler Bashar Assad will now resort to chemical warfare shot up Saturday afternoon, Dec. 8, after the rebels captured the “chloride factory” at Al Safira east of Aleppo. This is a codename for the Syrian army’s biggest chemical weapons store and base, which also houses Syrian Scud D missiles armed with chemical warheads adjusted to fire at Israel. Assad’s warning to the rebels not to fight with chemical weapons is taken as a means of justifying his own resort to chemical weapons and brought this threat closer than ever before. The West, Israel and Syria’s other neighbors have gone on elevated preparedness. debkafile file: The fall of Al Safira into rebel hands crosses a red line and places the Assad regime in direct peril. Possession of the chemical-tipped Scuds gives the rebels their strongest weapon for forcing the Syria army to capitulate.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said earlier Saturday that the UK and the US have seen evidence that Syria is preparing to use chemical weapons. There was enough evidence from intelligence sources to know “that they need a warning,” he said at a security conference in Bahrain. “The President of the United Sates warned of serious consequences and he meant it,” said the British minister.
British intelligence sources told the BBC that Syria’s chemical weapons are concentrated at five air bases and are being closely watched. They said contingency plans have been drawn up if they show signs of being readied to be loaded and used as weapons.
Paris: NATO-Arab Syria intervention imminent
DEBKAfile Special Report December 7, 2012, 3:09 PM (GMT+02:00) Tags: Bashar Assad Syria chemical weapons NATO France Britain Joint British-French Albanian Lion Exercise
Sources close to the French Defense Ministry reported Friday, Dec. 7, that a Western-Arab military intervention against the Assad regime is due to begin shortly with the participation of the US, France, Britain, Turkey, Jordan and other anti-Assad Arab nations. debkafile: The reference is to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar’s special forces.
Our military sources add that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle carrying a complement of marines is deployed in the Mediterranean, having joined the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group and at least five British warships which are also carrying a large marine force.
In the second and third weeks of November, British and French naval forces, plus 2,600 special ops combatants from both nations, performed landing-and-capture exercises against fortified locations on the coast and mountains of Albania as practice for potential operations against similar terrain in Syria, where the Alawite Mountains loom over the coastal towns of Latakia and Tartus.
The troops landing there would head for the Alawite Mts. to prevent Assad and his loyal units from retreating to his mountain stronghold and fighting on from there – as he plans to do if he is forced to flee Damascus.
French sources told Le Point magazine that the NATO mission for Syria, including the UK and the US, would be modeled on the Western intervention in Libya in 2011. It would combine an aerial blitz with ground action by special forces for destroying Assad’s chemical weapons stocks, his air force and his air defense systems.