Russia sends advanced missiles to Syria while planning peace conference

Russia has sent advanced antiship cruise missiles to Syria, according to anonymous U.S. officials. The Yakhonts, which have an advanced radar, underscore the continued support of Russia for the Syrian regime, giving the government the capacity to stave off international efforts to reinforce the Syrian opposition by sea. The shipment comes as the United States ...

AFP/Getty Images/Miguel Medina
AFP/Getty Images/Miguel Medina
AFP/Getty Images/Miguel Medina

Russia has sent advanced antiship cruise missiles to Syria, according to anonymous U.S. officials. The Yakhonts, which have an advanced radar, underscore the continued support of Russia for the Syrian regime, giving the government the capacity to stave off international efforts to reinforce the Syrian opposition by sea. The shipment comes as the United States and Russia are planning an international conference aimed at bringing together the Syrian government and opposition. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had brought up U.S. concerns over Russian arms supplies to Syria during his recent visit. He said, "I think we've made it crystal clear we would prefer that Russia was not supplying assistance." On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We have not hidden that we supply weapons to Syria under signed contracts, without violating any international agreements, or our own legislation." Russia has increased its presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, sending about a dozen warships near its naval base in Syria's port city of Tartus. According to a senior U.S. defense official, "It is a show of force." U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with Russian leaders on Friday to discuss the crisis in Syria. Ban, alongside Lavrov, said that a peace conference "should be held as soon as possible." Lavrov said that Syrian delegations have not yet been decided so an official date for the conference has not been set; however the meeting is expected to take place in Geneva during the first half of June. Syrian's main opposition group is expected to decide next week on whether it will participate in the conference, and Russia's push for Iran to be included in the meeting could add further complications. Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Washington with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday. The two leaders differed on many points on how to deal with the Syrian crisis, but agreed that President Bashar al-Assad must leave power. Erdogan is looking for international action on Syria, at least with the implementation of a no-fly zone, while Obama, reluctant to involve the United States in another war, ruled out unilateral U.S. military action.

Headlines

Egyptian police have closed the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, protesting the kidnapping of seven Egyptian security officers. Turkish police have arrested a prime suspect associated with the twin bombings last Saturday in Reyhanli near the Syrian border that killed 51 people. Iran's Guardian Council has barred women from running in presidential elections scheduled for June 14, for which 30 women have registered as candidates. A wave of car bombings in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk killed at least 26 people on Thursday. Over 20,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews assembled outside the Israel Defense Forces recruiting office Thursday protesting a conscription proposal

Russia has sent advanced antiship cruise missiles to Syria, according to anonymous U.S. officials. The Yakhonts, which have an advanced radar, underscore the continued support of Russia for the Syrian regime, giving the government the capacity to stave off international efforts to reinforce the Syrian opposition by sea. The shipment comes as the United States and Russia are planning an international conference aimed at bringing together the Syrian government and opposition. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had brought up U.S. concerns over Russian arms supplies to Syria during his recent visit. He said, "I think we’ve made it crystal clear we would prefer that Russia was not supplying assistance." On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We have not hidden that we supply weapons to Syria under signed contracts, without violating any international agreements, or our own legislation." Russia has increased its presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, sending about a dozen warships near its naval base in Syria’s port city of Tartus. According to a senior U.S. defense official, "It is a show of force." U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with Russian leaders on Friday to discuss the crisis in Syria. Ban, alongside Lavrov, said that a peace conference "should be held as soon as possible." Lavrov said that Syrian delegations have not yet been decided so an official date for the conference has not been set; however the meeting is expected to take place in Geneva during the first half of June. Syrian’s main opposition group is expected to decide next week on whether it will participate in the conference, and Russia’s push for Iran to be included in the meeting could add further complications. Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Washington with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday. The two leaders differed on many points on how to deal with the Syrian crisis, but agreed that President Bashar al-Assad must leave power. Erdogan is looking for international action on Syria, at least with the implementation of a no-fly zone, while Obama, reluctant to involve the United States in another war, ruled out unilateral U.S. military action.

Headlines

  • Egyptian police have closed the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, protesting the kidnapping of seven Egyptian security officers.
  • Turkish police have arrested a prime suspect associated with the twin bombings last Saturday in Reyhanli near the Syrian border that killed 51 people.
  • Iran’s Guardian Council has barred women from running in presidential elections scheduled for June 14, for which 30 women have registered as candidates.
  • A wave of car bombings in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk killed at least 26 people on Thursday.
  • Over 20,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews assembled outside the Israel Defense Forces recruiting office Thursday protesting a conscription proposal

Arguments and Analysis

The Law Against the Judges (Ursula Lindsey, The New York Times, Latitude Blog)

"In 2006, I watched middle-aged members of the Muslim Brotherhood kneel and pray in the street outside Cairo’s High Court in front of rows of officers from the riot police. It was a show of solidarity with judges, who were holding their own sit-ins and protests to contest being pressured to sign off on rigged elections by the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

Last month, more Brothers were protesting in front of the same court – this time against the judges. They were calling for the "purification" of the judiciary, which they accuse of undermining Egypt’s transition since the fall of Mubarak through unfair and politicized rulings. The protest degenerated into street fighting.

The deteriorating relationship between the judges and the Islamists dates back to last year and the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling that the newly elected and Islamist-dominated Parliament should be dissolved because of irregularities in the election law. The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies viewed that decision as a sneak attack on their rightful representative authority."

The hard men on both sides prevail (The Economist)

"A BLACK flag flies over the governor’s headquarters in Raqqa, a city of 250,000 people in Syria’s north-east which is the biggest so far that the rebels have captured wholesale from President Bashar Assad’s regime. It is also a base for Jabhat al-Nusra (Victory Front), an extreme armed opposition group in Syria with which al-Qaeda in Iraq recently claimed to have merged. But the group does not dominate Raqqa. At least four other rebel outfits, mainly Salafist ones whose members say they want to emulate the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, vie with a bunch of civilian councils for power over this tribal Sunni city, plastering its walls with rival graffiti. Yet in the eastern provinces as a whole, Jabhat al-Nusra has emerged as a hugely powerful presence. Among rebel fighters across the country it is probably the most effective single group.

By contrast, down the road in the gold-curtained living room of a small house near the city centre, members of a more moderate Islamist lot, al-Farouq, admit that they have grown weaker. They used to control the border crossing into Turkey at Tel Abyad, a prime piece of territory for arms and money, along with another crossing farther west. But that has since been grabbed away from them.

Sometimes Jabhat al-Nusra imposes itself on other rebels by force. Two months ago it tried to assassinate Abu Azzam, the local Farouq unit’s bear of a leader. In the event he had to flee to Turkey, while his men were left directionless and disorganised. Funds and weapons, which one Farouq member says only ever came in "injections just often enough to keep us alive", dried up."

–By Jennifer T. Parker and Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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