Moscow: No Strike Against Syria This Week

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A 9A83ME launcher unit of the S-300VM "Antey-2500" (NATO reporting name SA-23 Gladiator\Giant), Russian-made anti-ballistic missile system, is displayed during the MAKS-2013, the International Aviation and Space Show, in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, on 27 August 2013. (Photo: AFP - Kirill Kusryavtsev)

By: Jean Aziz

Published Thursday, August 29, 2013

Diplomatic sources in Russia say that those who are expecting a military strike against Syria will have to wait a little longer, predicting a fight at the UN Security Council before Washington sends its Tomahawks over Damascus.

There are those in the Syrian capital who were convinced that media reports of an imminent strike – with many reporting that Thursday, August 29 was the zero hour – were largely accurate, expecting US missiles to rain down on Damascus in the coming hours.

The media had declared that four US naval vessels were already in place near the Syrian coast, ready to unleash 90 Tomahawk missiles each on a variety of military targets throughout the country. Western officials and analysts, however, all talked of a limited attack that was not intended to topple the regime

A Russian diplomatic source seemed quite confident that Washington is not quite ready to carry out the attack, at least not this week, and all the bluster that we heard from Western capitals is beginning to temper, particularly after considering the repercussions of military action on the region as a whole.

The diplomat explained that the Obama administration has now decided to expend all means to get “international legitimacy” for the strike by resorting to the UN Security Council, where they will once again hit a wall of opposition from China and Russia. This, the source added, will take them at least a few days to reach a dead end.

There is also the question of obtaining Congress’ approval, which Obama has decided to seek, perhaps for internal political calculations, according to the Russian diplomat, adding that they do not plan to meet to discuss the issue before the beginning of next week.

He noted that Moscow has opened all its lines of communication with Washington, and that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in constant contact with his US counterpart John Kerry to keep up with all the developments and prevent any misunderstandings or miscommunication.

It is through these channels, which the source says Moscow opened with the Europeans too, that they have sensed a de-escalation on the part of the West, moderating their tone. This may not mean that they no longer intend to wage an attack and are just buying time to prepare the necessary forces, he added, but it does offer an opportunity to try to diffuse the situation.

The diplomat was not overly concerned about the fact that Washington canceled the August 28 meeting in The Hague to discuss plans for the Geneva II conference, maintaining that the American side remains keen on a political solution to the Syrian crisis and will agree with Russia on a new date this Fall.

He went on to reveal that there are approximately 17,000 Russian citizens that remain in Syria today, who work as “experts” in various state institutions, and it is the duty of Moscow to protect them from any bodily harm. He explained that there are no plans to evacuate them for the time being, confirming that a few hundred families have departed by way of Beirut in the last few days.

What will happen then? All possibilities are still open – it is like the Cuban missile crisis but on a smaller scale, he replied, so anything is possible. What is important is that we don’t think anything will happen this week, so sleep easy and we will wake you when the hour of reckoning approaches.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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