RUSSIA SLAMMED BY US FOR SENDING ANTI-SHIP MISSILES TO SYRIA

Fox News on May 17, 2013 published an AP report that the Obama administration is criticizing Russia’s decision to provide Syria with anti-ship missiles, which it says will only worsen the civil war. Excerpts below:

The Obama administration denounced Russia for providing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime with anti-ship missiles, saying the weapons would only worsen a war that Washington and Moscow have been promising to work together on stopping.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized what he called an “unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering.” He spoke at a news conference after the New York Times reported that Russia recently delivered an advanced version of Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also urged Russia to rethink its military aid, saying that the U.S. and Russia both wanted to stabilize Syria after more than two years of civil war but that the Kremlin’s military support makes the situation even more dangerous.

Dempsey’s comments, in particular, seemed to contradict that of the State Department, where spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the U.S. was aware of no “new shipments” of the weapons.

Almost immediately after last week’s announcement by Kerry and Lavrov of a new peace push, Israeli officials warned that Moscow was preparing to give Assad state-of-the-art ground-to-air missile systems in the coming months.

Both sets of missiles would only add to the administration’s reservations as it evaluates a range of options, including military ones, to break the stalemate in Syria’s civil war and respond to evidence that Assad’s forces used small amounts of chemical weapons in two attacks in March.

The cruise missiles and the new surface-to-air batteries would significantly upgrade the Assad regime’s capacity to target manned planes, drones and incoming missiles after its systems were easily circumvented in 2007 when Israeli jets bombed a suspected nuclear reactor site along the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria.

Apparently successful Israeli strikes in recent weeks on weapons convoys to Hezbollah show the Syrian defenses are still far from impregnable, but the new weaponry would make it harder for United States to consider enforcing a no-fly zone in the country or otherwise intervening militarily.

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