DAMASCUS — Syria’s military began large-scale exercises simulating defense against outside “aggression,” the state-run news agency said Sunday — an apparent warning to other countries not to intervene in the country’s crisis.
Israeli analysts said President Bashar Assad was signalling to the international community that if it was considering military intervention to try to resolve the 16-month domestic uprising against his rule, and his violent crackdown on opponents, any outside force would meet a potent Syrian response.
The exercise began Saturday with naval forces in a scenario where they repelled an attack from the sea, and will include air and ground forces over the next few days, SANA agency said. State TV broadcast footage of missiles being fired from launch vehicles and warships.
Some in the Syrian opposition have appealed to the West for foreign forces to step in to stop bloodshed that they say has left more than 14,000 dead since an uprising against Assad began in March 2011. So far, the West has shown little appetite to intervene.
Assad’s forces are test-firing some of the latest Russian-supplied land-to-sea missiles, Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari said, “with a 300-kilometer range. Israel was very unhappy when Russia sold Syria these missiles… and that was before the uprising erupted.”
Special U.N. envoy Kofi Annan acknowledged in an interview published Saturday that the international community’s efforts to find a political solution to the escalating violence in Syria have failed.
“The evidence shows that we have not succeeded,” he told the French daily Le Monde.
Annan, the special envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League, is the architect of the most prominent international plan to end the crisis in Syria.
His six-point plan was to begin with a cease-fire in mid-April between government forces and rebels seeking to topple Assad. But the truce never took hold, and now the almost 300 U.N. observers sent to monitor the cease-fire are confined to their hotels because of the escalating violence.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that time is running out on Syrian peace hopes and warned that the Syrian state could collapse.
Speaking in Japan, Clinton said Annan’s acknowledgement that his peace plan is failing “should be a wake-up call for everyone.”
She said last month was the deadliest for the Syrian people in the 16-month revolt, but added that the opposition “is getting more effective in defense of themselves and going on the offensive against the Syrian military.”
Defense Minister Dawood Rajiha attended the maneuvers and praised the “exceptional performance” of the naval forces which showed “a high level of combat training and ability to defend Syria’s shores against any possible aggression.”
“The navy carried out the training successfully, repelling the hypothetical attack and striking at given targets with high precision,” the report said.