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The Russian-Syrian drama | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Yesterday was a busy day for the Russian-Syrian drama, politically, militarily and in the media. It was announced that a Russian counter-terrorism squad had arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus, only for this to be quickly denied altogether by the Russian Defense Ministry, according to what was reported by the “al-Arabiya” television channel yesterday.

Was this news true, and then denied for fear of the negative repercussions? Is this news an indicator of the mixed views within Moscow itself about what is happening in Syria? Otherwise how could the arrival of a Russian anti-terrorism unit be announced on the same day that Moscow declared its support for the head of the Red Cross’s demand to secure a ceasefire in Syria for two hours daily, for humanitarian reasons? Moscow even said that it would pressure the al-Assad government for this. This is not to mention all the recent Russian stances, specifically in the past week. The story does not end here; Paris has announced that it intends to submit a draft UN resolution binding support to Kofi Annan’s mission, which Moscow supports. So how can Moscow, at the same time, be undertaking an overt military act, with al-Assad’s support, especially as it poses very large consequences for the region, and Russia itself? This is not possible of course.

Most important of all was the content of the denied news piece about sending a Russian anti-terrorism squad to Syria, citing the reason behind sending such a unit as to evacuate Russian nationals, should this be required. The truth is that this act is not a symbolic show of support for Bashar al-Assad as much as it is an indication that something is going on in Damascus, and it seems that Moscow is concerned about the sudden fall of the al-Assad regime, or even a coup, especially if we remember that yesterday was a busy day with confrontations that lasted nearly 24 hours between al-Assad’s forces and the Syrian revolutionaries in the Mezze area, in the heart of Damascus!

Do the Russians really intend to intervene to evacuate their nationals in the event of the regime suddenly collapsing, or is the story related to the American and Israeli concern about how to protect against the missiles and weapons that threaten Israel’s security if the al-Assad regime falls. This concern has already been publicly declared, and previous reports have quoted that the United States is working in full swing on this issue with Syria’s neighbors and other relevant countries, to ensure that weapons do not fall into the hands of what they describe as terrorists, in the event of the surprise collapse of the al-Assad regime in Syria.

Many questions…and thus yesterday was a significant day for the Russian-Syrian drama at all levels. My conviction is that the publication of the news and then its subsequent denial – of course we do not know what happened after the paper was printed – indicates that something is going on in Syria, and no one knows how serious it is. Otherwise, how can [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergei Lavrov criticize the Bashar al-Assad regime in the Russian Duma, only for Moscow to then send an anti-terrorism squad to protect it?!

Let’s see.