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Russia’s Human Interest in Syria


According to a new report released this week, it appears that the import of foreign weapons to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad increased dramatically in recent years, just before the revolution began in Syria. Compared to the previous five years, the shipments of foreign arms were much higher, and most of them came from Russia. The report, prepared by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show some impressive numbers as to what the state of military weapons appeared to be.

Since the revolution started last year, an estimated 9,000 people died so far, most of them civilians, including many children. The SIPRI reports comes just as the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, was travelling to Moscow in order to meet with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to help negotiate with the Syrian government so that aid could be brought in the most affected regions of the country. Mr Kellenberger said that the humanitarian situation in the country was most likely to get worse.

Meanwhile the report itself found that Syria’s most important weapons import went up 580% between 2006 and 2011. Their most important seller was Russia with 78% of the arms provided to the regime. These Russian weapons included surface to air missiles, coastal defense missiles, and other small arms. Moscow acknowledged in the past selling arms to Assad, despite a UN arms embargo proposal. How many weapons were delivered however remained unclear.

In a speech to Russia’s parliament last week, Mr. Lavrov claimed that the weapons sent to Rysia were for external threats only, and had not been used against civilians or demonstrators. However, many humanitarian organizations such as Human Rights Watch believe otherwise. For example, Russian-made mines were used extensively to block the traffic of people between Turkey and Lebanon, including many fleeing refugees. Nearly $1 billion worth of Russian missiles and airplanes were apparently sold to Syria in 2011 alone. These included some modern Mig planes along with weapons able to take down any invading aircraft.

Meanwhile, Russia is trying to keep its business relationship with the country intact, and has been supporting the Assad regime all this time, which prompted a lot of worldwide criticism. Moscow wants to prevent an outside intervention in Syria like the one that happened in Libya, where Nato countries used a UN resolution to support rebels against Muammar Gaddafi. Despite calling for Mr. Assad to step down, the western powers have been hesitant to provide arms to rebels, fearing an escalation of the war. The EU has banned arms exports to Syria last year.

Summer of Lebanon Cedars and Iranian Brow-Beaters

Last Saturday, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, Heydar Moslehi accused the Swedish
cosmetics firm, Oriflame of trying to harm Iran’s security after the Tehran office was closed and five of its employees were taken into police custody amid allegations that they were running a pyramid scheme for a spy agency.

Moslehi was quoted as saying:

“Oriflame intended to fight the (Iranian) system. There are no economic reasons behind the company… We realized through the evidence that the arrogance (Western powers) and intelligence agencies sought to create security problems for the country through this company.”

An Oriflame representative in Stockholm said the firm is in no way involved in political activities. CEO Gabriel Bennet said:

“We are a cosmetics company, we are selling direct. We are of course not involved in any political activities in the country (Iran)…”

Mr. Bennet continued,

“It’s very difficult to comment on this because we don’t know why our colleagues have been detained, we don’t know why the company has been shut down…” Ah, the mysterious Iranian signature! “We are doing our utmost to solve the situation in Iran and especially for our colleagues being detained.”

Moslehi insisted:

“These companies operate with outside support and are not engaged in economic activities. They are under the guidance of spy agencies.”

To which refuted the Sweating Swede:

“The firm’s business model is to sell cosmetics and give 40,000 Iranians, mainly women, a possibility to earn money through direct sales.”

Good for Iran on cracking down. But why so paranoid?
Meanwhile Teheran is ready, willing and able to supply the Lebanese army with any arms it may need. This is nothing new since the Hezbollah swung into town in 1982.
Iranian General Ahmad Vahidi said,

“Lebanon is our friend, if there is a demand in this respect, we are ready to help that country and conduct weapons transactions with it.”

The USA is on the case, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that such transaction between the Islamic Republic and the Republic of Lebanon is exactly why “the importance both to our (American) national security and the security of the region to continue with our security assistance to the Lebanese people.”

This comes after, as OneJerusalem reported last week, the US suspended $100 million of foreign aid to the sometimes seedy Republic of Cedars, which is really OK, because plenty of arms donations are coming to Lebanon from France, anyway. Herve Morin, French Defense Minister sent a letter to Elias Murr, according to the Jerusalem Post, pushing the sale of 100 HOT anti-tank missiles to be used on their Gazelle helicopters.

Well, the US also warned Lebanon – and I think that means, should Lebanon crumble under Hezbollah influence, the IDF has the capability of destroying the Lebanese Armed Forces in four hours!

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