Iran sends two warships, US flies drones on Syria
DAMASCUS / ANKARA
This file photo shows Russian sailors standing to attention on board the Russian aircraft carrier Kuznetsov docked in the Syrian port of Tartous on Jan 8. Russia has later sent another ship, Chariot, which was believed to deliver munition in Tartous. AFP Photo/SANAIran gave support to the Syrian regime, sending two warships to the country’s port Tartus over the weekend, while the United States is flying its unmanned reconnaissance planes over Syria, officials say.
Iran’s move is the second time such support has been given to Syria, as a Russian ship, Chariot,
unloaded “dangerous cargo,” believed to be munitions, in Syria in late January, according to sources.
In January, a large Russian naval flotilla led by an aircraft carrier docked in Tartus in what Syrian state media hailed as a show of solidarity by close ally Moscow. Russia sent another ship, believed to be loaded with munitions, to Tartus later in January. Iranian state-run Press TV said two Iranian navy ships have docked in the Syrian port of Tartus Feb. 17 to provide maritime training to Syria’s naval forces under an agreement signed between the two countries a year ago, al Jazeera news website reported. Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency said the fleet consisted of a destroyer and a supply ship.
After the Iranian warships docked at Tartus, Volkan Bozkır, Chairman of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee said Iran’s latest move has changed the situation in the region as Syria is playing “Russian chess” which might turn into “Russian roulette” via his Twitter account. Bozkır called on Turkey and other related countries to spoil this game with smart moves and calmness. Bozkır’s statements came after Turkey vowed to increase pressure on the Syrian regime.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey is determined to increase its pressure on the Syrian regime and the states which give support to al-Assad on Feb. 18. In the meantime, “a good number” of unmanned U.S. military drones are operating in the skies over Syria, monitoring the military’s crackdown against the opposition, U.S. defense officials told NBC News, according to Al Arabiya website. British Foreign Minister William Hague warned yesterday that Syria is sliding into a civil war.
“We cannot intervene in the way we did in Libya ... we will do many other things,” Hague said.
As China and Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution supporting the Arab League plan aimed to stop the crackdown in Syria, China said yesterday that it believed a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis was still possible as any armed intervention would only spread turmoil through the region, official Xinhua news agency reported, a day after a Chinese envoy met with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. The latest Arab country to scale back its relations with the Syrian regime was Egypt as it said yesterday it was withdrawing its ambassador to Syria. The Egyptian state news agency MENA said Ambassador Shukri Ismael will stay in Cairo until further notice. Also, Iraq is taking measures to secure its border with Syria against weapons smuggling and the unauthorized movement of persons, after reports weapons were crossing into Syria, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office said Feb. 18.