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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Russia, China wargames with Iran and Syria? (updated)

From Iran's Fars News:
The Iranian, Russian, Chinese and Syrian armies are due to stage joint amphibious exercises along the Syrian costs in coming weeks, informed sources revealed on Monday.

According to informed sources, 90,000 forces from the four countries will take part in the land and sea wargames due to be held in Syria.

Ground, air and sea forces as well as air defense and missile units of the four countries will take part in the exercises.

Sources also said that Egypt has acceded to grant passage to 12 Chinese warships to sail through the Suez Canal, adding that the military convoy is due to dock at the Syrian harbors in the next two weeks.

Russian atomic submarines and warships, aircraft carriers and mine-clearing destroyers as well as Iranian battleships and submarines will also arrive in Syria at around the same date.

Syria plans to test its coast-to-sea and air defense missiles in the wargames.

A sum of 400 warplanes and 1,000 tanks will also be used in the exercises.

A Syrian official, who asked to remain anonymous, had informed two weeks ago that the drills would be conducted in Syria soon.

Unofficial sources also said the four countries are now busy with taking swift preparatory measures for these biggest-ever wargames in the Middle-East.
In a similar vein comes this story from The Telegraph:

Russia confirmed that it was preparing to send an elite unit of marines to its naval base in Syria on Monday, sharply raising the stakes in its confrontation with the West over the future of the Assad regime.

The planned deployment was designed to send a powerful signal that Russia would not tolerate foreign military intervention in Syria, according to a Western defence source.

It was apparently ordered after the Kremlin came to conclusion that Western powers were preparing to circumvent the United Nations Security Council – where Russia holds a veto – by unilaterally authorising Nato military action in Syria. The source said that Russia had "completely misunderstood" Western intentions.

Classified US satellite images last week indicated that loading work had begun on two amphibious landing vessels, the Nikolai Filchenkov and the Caesar Kunikov, at the Crimean naval base of Sebastopol.

After initially remaining silent on the subject, a senior naval commander yesterday confirmed that both ships would shortly be heading to the Russian base at the Syrian port of Tartus, the Interfax news agency reported.
And:
The British marine insurer Standard Club said it had withdrawn cover from all the ships owned by Femco, a Russian cargo line, including the MV Alaed.

"We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria," the company said in a statement. "We have already informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage."

The MV Alaed picked up its cargo of Mi25 helicopters – known as "flying tanks" – from the Russian port of Kaliningrad, where they had been sent to the state-owned manufacturer Mil's "Factory 150" for servicing and repairs.

They were originally sold to the Syrian government by Moscow, its major arms supplier, at the end of the Soviet era.
Suddenly, Syria's civil war is heading into the direction of a world war.

(h/t Yoel)

UPDATE: Syria denies the story.