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Blunt Talk Between Russia and NATO Over Syria
Secretary of State Kerry visited President Putin in Russia in a vain attempt to halt the shipment of the advanced S-300 missile system to Syria. Syria is slated to receive them within 3-4 weeks, about 4-6 batteries (12-16 individual units). Putin scolded Israel about the airstrikes into Syria and indicated that Russia will not tolerate any further attacks. The 9K720 Iskander (NATO named SS-26 Stone) surface missiles, which are precise enough to hit a target within a 5-7 meter radius at a distance of 280 kilometers. Russia and Israel have met and Israel has been told the 4-6 batteries of the S-300 (144 missiles) have already been purchased long ago and Russia will fulfill the contract along with Russian operators.
Kerry did not indicate how the U.S. could or would stop the sale and shipment but did tell Putin it is "another redline". It would force the West to supply more sophisticated weapon systems to the rebels to negate the S-300 effects. The S-300 would probably prevent NATO or any others in creating a "No-fly" zone over parts of Syria. This poses a serious issue for Israel if they attack the S-300 manned with Russians. There is little doubt that if Russians were attacked, Putin would use it as pretext to send more combat troops. This would force NATO\America to act.
While the US and Russia agreed to have an international conference, it is really just public relations. Russia has said that Assad must be part of the solution in the talks, while the US has said that Assad must be removed before any talks occur. This sort of creates a stillborn meeting.
Meanwhile, a coalition of Syrian, Hezbollah and Iranian Bassij troops began turning the tide of war against the rebels, pushing them out of previous areas which they had captured, including parts of the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo.
President Obama's reluctance to do anything is allowing the Assad side to become bolder and more successful as Russia and Iran provide support and the rebels are left hanging. Even Turkey has said that Assad has used gas long ago and any redlines were crossed. Their own doctors have documented many cases where victims were gassed. These documents have been provided to President Obama.
Russia and Iran are calling our bluff to intervene in a meaningful manner. The Syrian war is growing worse as America hesitates.
What could America do?
- Disable the runways of Syrian air bases with limited strikes. This would prevent Iran and Russia from transferring weapons into Syria which violate UN resolution 1747, 1701.
- Use naval assets to impose a no-fly zone over western Syria and shoot down Syrian aircraft.
- Supply the rebels with heavy equipment, they already have plenty of light weapons.
- Prepare to seize and remove Syria's chemical weapons by using troops to go in and get out.