Something very curious has happened on the heels of the discussions between the U.S. and Russia regarding Syria “giving up” chemical weapons.
Russia almost immediately began shipping large quantities of additional conventional weapons to Syria to bolster the regime, as reported by Israeli television (via Times of Israel):
Russia is stepping up weapons supplies to Syria’s President Bashar Assad, to help him prevail in the civil war, as part of the arrangements under which the Assad regime has agreed in principle to have its chemical weapons stockpiles placed under international supervision, Israel television reported on Tuesday night.
Negotiations between Russia and Syria on the supervision arrangement, which seem to have drastically reduced the likelihood of US-led military intervention in Syria, have been ongoing for two full weeks, and have also involved Iran, the Israeli Channel 2 report said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, determined to ensure that his ally Assad not face a punitive US-led strike following Damascus’s alleged use of chemical weapons in an August 21 attack that the US says killed over 1,400 Syrians, essentially ordered Assad to submit to international oversight of his chemical weapons stocks, the report said.
In return, Putin promised bolstered conventional weapons shipments, “some of which are already on their way” to Syria from the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.
While certainly Russia has been shipping weapons previously, this would indicate a more intensified effort. At the same time, the Obama administration seems to be backing away from the rebels.
The next time John Kerry testifies before Congress — or holds a press conference — he should be pressed as to any undisclosed understandings.
Even if Assad doesn’t use chemical weapons again, he has a long history of large-scale massacres without chemical weapons:
U.N. rights investigators have established that Syrian government forces were almost certainly responsible for two massacres last May in which up to 450 civilians were killed, a report published on Wednesday said.
The report documented eight mass killings in all, attributing all but one to government forces, but said both government and rebel fighters had committed war crimes including murder, hostage-taking and shelling of civilians in their battle for territory.
The killings in Baida and Ras al-Nabaa, two pockets of rebel sympathizers surrounded by villages loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on the outskirts of the coastal town of Banias, sent a chilling message of the price to be paid for backing the rebels.
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