Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Damascus and its Moscow Rear

In the context of the escalating crisis in the Middle East, the Axis Information and Analysis website has published a lengthy and detailed study of military and strategic relations between the Russian and Syrian governments. In the article, analysts Pavel Simonov and Sami Rosen discuss the resurgent threat of Moscow once again becoming involved in the conflict with Israel, mainly as a result of its policies towards Syria. It's not so long ago that Russian officers, with the backup of Soviet military advisers, fought alongside the Syrians against the Israelis on Lebanese territory.

While there is no doubt that Moscow is sincerely worried about the prospect of history repeating itself, the constant expressions of support for Syrian President Bashir Assad which have flowed from the Kremlin ever since the beginning of the current escalation of the crisis in Lebanon, coupled with the continuation of massive deliveries of armaments to Syria from Russia, don't give the impression that the Russian government is doing much to avoid the possible negative consequences of such a policy.

From the last part of the AIA article:
Arms deliveries

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the deliveries of the Russian armament to Syria were considerably reduced, though were not stopped completely. In 1992-1993 Moscow sold to Damascus the T-72 tanks for the total of $270 million. In 1996 an agreement was concluded on deliveries to Syria of a large party of machine-guns and grenade launchers, their ammunition and missiles for the mobile anti-tank missile launchers of the “Konkurs” type.

Besides, the Russian side had undertaken the initiative to modernize tanks of the Syrian army, in particular to equip them with modern electronic equipment. In 1998-1999 Moscow sold to Damascus a party of anti-tank missile launchers "Cornet-E" and "Metis-M", for a total of $138 million. Besides, in 1998 during the visit of the Russian Minister of Defence Igor Sergeev to Syria, the parties agreed about the sale to this country of the Su-27 front fighters, T-80 tanks, and S-300 antiaircraft-missile systems, for a total of $2 billion. Simultaneously, the Russian side undertook the initiative to modernize the park of warplanes of the Syrian army. In January 2005, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad paid a visit to Moscow. Then the Declaration on further development of friendly relations and cooperation between the two countries was signed. Separate attention was paid «to development of traditional cooperation in the military and technical sphere».

Within the last year Moscow delivered to Damascus antiaircraft-missile installations of the "Strelets" type suitable for mounting on helicopters, ships and armor. In parallel, the Russian manufacturers have informed on the conclusion of the contract with Syrians about the sale of the “Pantsyr” type newest air defence systems. The bilateral top-level military cooperation contacts have been proceeding also in the latest time. In September 2005, the chief of the General Staff of Syrian army Ali Habib visited Moscow. His Russian counterpart Yury Baluevsky paid a visit to Damascus in January 2006. According to Russian sources, during those visits deliveries to Syria of the Su-30 fighters, Yak-130 training warplanes, «Pantsyr-S1» complexes of air defence, and two diesel submarines, as well as the issue of modernization of MiG-29 fighters and a thousand of T-72 tanks were discussed.

Advisers and professional training

Though at the end of the 1980s - the beginning of the 1990s the number of the Soviet and later on - the Russian military advisers and experts had been considerably reduced in Syria, they are still working in this country. In the last years their number reached nearly 100 people. And since the beginning of the 2000s, a gradual increase of the number of Russian military experts is marked in Syria. Besides, since the Soviet period, preparation of the officer staff for the Syrian army in the military educational institutions of Russia has not stopped. In 2005 the both sides agreed to double their number (up to 60 people).

Point of material support

Since the Soviet period there is a point of material and technical support of the Navy, located at the South Syrian coast of the Mediterranean, in the Russian property. This object includes warehouses of the coastguard service, a raft workshop and three sea moorings. After the corresponding agreement was signed in spring 1983, repair and updating of the material stocks of the ships of 5-th flotilla of the USSR Navy was carried out in Tartus till autumn 1991. In 1999 there were the intelligence vessels of the Russian Navy that were tracking the NATO warships taking part in the Yugoslavian campaign. In June 2006 it became known that the Russian experts begun works to deepen the bottom at the Syrian ports of Tartus and Latakia (the latter was also used by the Soviet Navy in the past).

Military rear of Syrian-Iranian alliance

In the light of the aforesaid, it is obvious that in case of the conflict, it will be the Syrian units under command of the recent graduates of the Russian military universities equipped with modern combat technique of the Russian manufacture that will withstand the Israeli troops. It is not only ascertaining of the facts, but also an integral component of the military doctrine of the Syrian-Iranian alliance. The contract on the military cooperation signed by the ministers of defence of the two countries this June eloquently testifies that Syria and Iran have been considering Russia as the “rear” of their confrontation with Israel. In this document the sides agree upon the necessity of increase by Damascus of import of the Russian arms on the eve of an eventual conflict with Israel. According to the contract, Tehran undertakes the initiative to pay for the Russian deliveries for the needs of the Syrian army. An important place in the agreement is allocated to the cooperation of Iran and Syria on the Lebanese direction, especially in rendering assistance to the armed formations of Hezbullah...
See also in this blog:

Russia and Syria
The Middle East and Russia's New Game

Russia May Relocate Warships To Syria
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