It's going to be problematic enough to keep the Russians out as I explain further down in this report. Turkey, a NATO country, will be taking the lead in a no-fly, no movement zone under the auspices of the Arab League - to which Turkey, oddly, does not belong. In an interview with NATO, a NATO Spokesman said that "NATO" - as a 28-member organization - is staying out of this one. If RT reports are to be believed, the U.S. alone will be providing logistical support for the Turks. With two NATO countries involved in any possible no-fly zone, exactly how that is supposed to convince the Russians this is not a NATO operation is beyond me; but I guess we'll see how this shakes out one way or another, because we're on an E ticket ride, and there ain't no getting off.
Fulfilling a contract from 2007, this week the Russian government has made good on the delivery of an unknown number of supersonic SSN-26 Yakhont anti-ship missiles to the Ba'athist government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
These missiles are different than the S-300 missiles Russian technicians have been installing in Syria in recent days in anticipation of a no-fly zone over Syria. Those are anti-aircraft missiles, while these are designed to destroy ships - and they are very good at it.
According to FAS Military Analysis Network:
The supersonic P-800 Yakhont (Gem) is a ramjet version of P-80 Zubr [SS-N-7 Starbright]. The ship, submarine and coastal-launched Yakhont is launched from the unified ampoule-shaped transport-launching container (TLC).
The container is 9 m long, is 0.71 m in diameter. The firing range reaches 300 km (162 nmi.) when flying along a combined trajectory and 120 kg (265 lb.) when following only a low-altitude trajectory. Flight speed varying over the range from M=2.0 to M=2.5 is provided by the kerosene-fueled multi-mode liquid-fuel ramjet.
The P-800 Bolid is the encapsulated, submarine launched version of Yakhont. An air-launched version of the missile with the take-off weight of 2,500 kg (5,507 lb.) is also being developed. The closest American counterparts, the Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles, are subsonic; the best French antiship missile, the Exocet, has a range of only 45 miles.
This missile system can be mounted on a truck, fired from fixed installations, or launched from a submarine; it presents a challenge to the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) which is currently steaming the waters off of Syria in anticipation of the imminent declaration of a no-fly, no-movement zone designed to cripple the military of Bashar al-Assad's Ba'athist regime. According to the United Nations, Syria's military has been responsible for more than 3,500 civilian deaths since protests erupted and the Arab League has had enough, with 18 of 22 members voting to suspend Syria and threatening to recognize the Syrian National Council as the legitimate government of Syria.
Russia has been asserting influence in Syria for decades since Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, ruled Syria with an iron fist, selling them weapons and maintain a naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus. The base is small in comparison to what one might expect a Russian naval base to be - sporting three floating docks, barracks, and other facilities - but since 2006, Russian officials have been in talks with the Syrians about expanding the base and, therefore, their ability to project influence into the Mediterranean Sea as the former Soviet Union did during the Cold War.
In exchange for the expanded base, Russia forgave 3/4 of Syria's 13.4 Billion dollar debt, so they have a significant investment in Syria that they want to protect. Once, the Soviet Union wielded great influence in the Med with bases in Libya, Egypt, and Syria; but since the humiliating loss of empire and prestige that occurred after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has been a second-rate (although still massively nuclear) world power. President Dmitry Medvedev wants to change all of that, and in recent months he (with more than a bit of prodding from Vladimir Putin I'm sure) has puffed out his chest and stood toe-to-toe with the U.S., most recently over defensive NATO missile installations in Poland.
In addition to arming the Syrians to the teeth, published reports from al-Arabiya state that the Russian Navy has sent three warships to the waters off of Syria, the same Area of Operations in which the George H.W. Bush is operating. While it is unlikely that Russian warships will come into direct conflict with the Bush, the same can not be said for Syria. If Assad gets desperate enough, there is an old Arab adage upon which he may rely: "We will burn it all down." If Assad feels like his days are numbered, he may very well decide to take a last, dying swipe at those responsible for his demise, much as he has in the indiscriminate targeting of civilian protestors.
Sources in Israel tell me that the Israelis are worried that Syria might transfer some of these missiles to Hezbollah, and that if that happens the IDF fears a repeat of the INS Hanit incident in which an Israeli vessel was hit by an anti-ship missile launched by the terrorist group in 2006. Further, the Israelis are already preparing their forces for action against Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah which Iran - Syria's closest ally, linked by a common Shia tradition - has threatened to unleash upon the Jewish state should they or Syria be attacked by the West (and probably even if they are attacked by Arab League states.)
In recent weeks the Iranian-backed terror group Islamic Jihad has obtained truck mounted surface-to-surface missiles which had been stolen from armories in Libya, and used them to attack Israeli civilians in the towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod. Those attacks killed one Israeli and wounded several others, and Israel responded killing up to 15 members of Islamic Jihad including at least one top leader. Islamic Jihad also claims up to 8,000 fighter among their ranks who would be used to infiltrate Israel to conduct a massive wave of suicide bombings.
The interview with the Syrian opposition leader will be the main focus of the next episode of The Truth Is Viral. This weeks episode, released a couple of days ago and embedded directly below this post, zeroes in on the TWENTY-THOUSAND MISSILES that al-Qaeda terrorists stole from Libyan armories as they went tear-assing around the country during their CIA-backed "revolution."
I will be adding to this breaking news as new information comes in.
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