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Thu 12 Jan 2012 04:08 PM

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West planning no-fly zone to aid Syrian rebels

Russia says NATO, Gulf gearing up for military intervention to stop Syria bloodshed

West planning no-fly zone to aid Syrian rebels
Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed foreign elements for the uprising

Russia received information that members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and some Gulf countries are preparing military intervention in Syria, the head of the Russian Security Council said.

Turkey, a NATO member, may play a key role, Nikolai Patrushev, who used to head the country’s intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, told Interfax in comments confirmed by his office. The US and Turkey are working on a possible no-fly zone to protect Syrian rebels, Patrushev said.

“We are receiving information that NATO members and some Gulf states, working under the ‘Libyan scenario’, intend to move from indirect intervention in Syria to direct military intervention,” the Russian security chief said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the Arab League monitoring mission in Syria should end after failing to deter the government’s 10-month campaign of violence against dissidents.

She spoke after meeting Qatari Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al Thani, a day after President Barack Obama held talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal at the White House.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry and NATO’s press service in Brussels didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Russia, which has Soviet-era ties with Syria, argues that United Nations-sanctioned bombing of Libya by NATO to protect civilians was used to bring about regime change and that Western governments are trying to repeat that scenario in Syria.

The West is putting pressure on Syria because the country refuses to break off its alliance with Iran and not for repressing the opposition, said Patrushev, who served with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the Soviet-era KGB.

“This time, it won’t be France, the UK and Italy that will provide the main strike forces, but perhaps neighbouring Turkey, which was until recently on good terms with Syria and is a rival of Iran with immense ambitions,” Patrushev said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejected calls for his resignation on Jan 10, accusing “foreign conspiracies” of aiming to divide his country. Unrest in Syria since March 2011 has claimed more than 5,000 lives, according to the United Nations.

The Arab League imposed sanctions on Syria on Nov 27. Russia and China have blocked efforts by the US and the European Union for the UN Security Council to condemn the crackdown.

Russia, which has a naval base in Syria and sells weapons to the Middle Eastern country, is more concerned that Islamic radicals may come to power, said Irina Zvyagelskaya, a Middle East analyst at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

“Our fear is that Syria could collapse and extremist Islamic forces will seize control that no one will be pleased about,” Zvyagelskaya said in a phone interview. “This could destabilize the entire region.”

While Russia would block any effort to seek UN approval for a no-fly zone in Syria thanks to its veto-wielding power as a permanent member of the Security Council, Western nations and their allies may form a coalition like they did for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, said the analyst.

“There are scenarios which different countries are looking at,” Zvyagelskaya said. “We have seen before what a no-fly zone means, it will be used to overthrow the regime.”

Defectors from Assad’s army who have set up an opposition force called the Free Syrian Army called at the end of last year for a no-fly zone and two buffer areas with international backing as they seek to topple the Syrian government.

The group wants a buffer zone in the north, on the Turkish- Syrian border, and another in the south near the border with Jordan to help them bring the fight closer to Assad, Riad al As’ad, a former Syrian colonel who leads the Free Syrian Army, said in a phone interview from Turkey on Nov 18.

Russia may have obtained intelligence about Western military plans in Syria or may be sending a signal that it will actively oppose any such efforts, said Fyodor Lukyanov, an analyst at the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy in Moscow.

“After the Libyan experience, Russia will do everything to stop this scenario from happening,” he said in a phone interview. “Syria is much more important than Libya from Russia’s point of view.”

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Michael 8 years ago

so the obama regime thinks this will help their election in November-Democrats never do anything that isn't part of an election strategy.

Amir 8 years ago

Here we go again 1st Iraq 2nd Afghan 3rd Egypt 4th Libya 5th Syria and the last Iran End of the World .
USA is making sure that there wont be any Peace in this part of world! Days have proved that Iran cannot be trusted and anyone who trusts Iran should not be trusted! should we say USA instead of Iran? past 4years who killed our people ? who is bombing ?Western military

procan 8 years ago

Hoping the USA will not get involved with Syrian issue.This is job for the Arab league and there considerable assets. Arab League should be the Police man in there own region . They understand the issues the culture and faith who better equipped.

John Harte 8 years ago

I don't remember the West having anything to do with Egypt? And I recall that UAE and Qatar military assisted in Libya; and who has killed the 5,000 in Syria? Sorry, not the West.

As for "our people" maybe you should ask the Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans if they would prefer to be under their former regimes? Easy for you to blame the West for your failings at sorting out your own problems from the safety of the UAE.

procan 8 years ago

@Amir please , Canadian Military assets will have no part in Syrian it is not our business NATO or the US are on there own in Syria.