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Russia says strike on Syria won’t be made easy

Assad has a strong air defense system, Moscow officials claim; military intervention will have ‘catastrophic consequences’

Bodies being buried after the August 21 chemical attack near Damascus (photo credit: AP/Shaam News Network)
Bodies being buried after the August 21 chemical attack near Damascus (photo credit: AP/Shaam News Network)

Russia intensified its warnings against Western military intervention in Syria Tuesday, with Moscow saying such a move would be illegal and Syrian air defenses would put any strike at risk.

An unnamed Moscow official warned that the international community wouldn’t be granted an “easy victory” in Syria, pointing to what the individual claimed was Damascus’s sufficient air defense systems, including surface-to-air missile systems, capable of thwarting severe damage, the Russian Interfax news agency reported.

“If the US army and NATO launch an operation against Syria, there won’t be an easy victory,” the news agency reported, quoting the military source, who claimed Syria has at least 10 air defense batteries as well as a Soviet and Russian-made arsenal that can combat incoming cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other projectiles.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich called on the international community to heed international law and be prudent regarding the Syrian crisis.

“Attempts to bypass the UN Security Council, once again to create artificial and baseless excuses for a military intervention in the region, are fraught with more suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa,” he said in a statement.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin lashed out at the West Tuesday, writing on Twitter that “The West behaves toward the Islamic world like a monkey with a grenade.”

The Arab League, though, added its voice to the growing chorus of anti-Assad voices Tuesday, saying that the Syrian regime was entirely responsible for the attack. It called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

In an emergency meeting held Tuesday, the Arab League also called on members of the UN Security Council to overcome their differences and agree on “deterrent” measures against those who committed “this heinous crime.” The league said it would convene a meeting at the ministerial level next week to follow up on the situation in Syria.

The Syrian government has denied it was behind the attack.

In an apparent jab at Russia, which has been insisting that the West does not have sufficient evidence of chemical weapons use to justify an attack on Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that anyone who thought the evidence of a chemical attack was “contrived” or fabricated “must check their moral conscience.”

The US on Tuesday canceled its meeting on Syria with Russia, which was slated for Wednesday, to which Moscow responded that it regretted the Americans’ decision.

The meeting at The Hague was planned to set up an international conference to find a political resolution to the Syrian crisis. A senior State Department official said Monday the meeting between Undersecretary Wendy Sherman and US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford with their Russian counterparts was postponed because of the ongoing US review about alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The US has said it was ready for military action if evidence is conclusive that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons.

The Obama administration on Monday toughened its criticism of Syria’s alleged chemical weapons use, with Kerry cutting short his vacation to deliver a scathing indictment of the Assad regime. It was the first time the US said unequivocally that the Syrian government was behind a devastating attack that killed hundreds last week.

In an address at the State Department (read the full speech here), Kerry said that chemical attacks were “inexcusable” and “undeniable,” that they defied “the code of morality” and should “shock the conscience of the world.” He called the killing of innocent women and children a “moral obscenity” and reiterated — in what appeared to be a direct threat to the Assad regime — that there must be accountability for the use of such weapons.

Meanwhile, reports about an unsuccessful attempt by North Korea to export gas masks and arms to Syria were publicized Tuesday, first by a Japanese newspaper, Sankei Shimbun, and then translated into English by AFP. The communist regime was said to have sent gas masks, 1,400 rifles and pistols, and more than 30,000 bullets and ammunition to Syria. The shipment, however, was seized in Turkey. According to the report, US authorities believed the cargo was to be unloaded in Turkey and then sent by land to Syria.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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