Six Russian MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor aircraft from Moscow landed Tuesday, Aug. 18, at the Mezze Airbase situated in Damascus international airport, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources disclose. They were followed shortly after by giant An-124 Condor transports, which delivered 1,000 Kornet-9M133 third-generation anti-tank guided missiles.
The Russian airlift of advanced weapons for Bashar Assad’s army will last for several days. It betokens Moscow’s intention to keep up its support for the Syrian ruler and counter – by military means if necessary – any secret Iranian diplomatic machinations for terminating the Syria war and with it the Assad regime – such as have been reported in the past week in Western and Arab capitals, especially in the Gulf.
Our sources report that the decision to send the Syrian ruler advanced aircraft and missiles could only have come from the top, i.e. President Vladimir Putin. It took direct aim at the latest moves made by the US, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia for ending the Syrian war. Every formula they came up with entailed Assad’s exit, either in stages or at once.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made it crystal clear to visiting Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubair on Aug. 11 that Moscow would not stand still for any changes in Assad’s position in Damascus. The Migs and Antonovs which landed in Damascus Tuesday were meant not only as a buttress for the Syrian ruler’s regime but as a rescue operation.
The message for Washington and Ankara was that Moscow would oppose any US and Turkish plans to establish a no-fly zone over Syria, or intervene directly in the Syrian conflict.
The Russians sent exactly six MiG interceptors to match the six F-16 fighters the US deployed at the Turkish Incerlik air base on Aug. 9.
So if President Barack Obama decides to deploy more American planes at the Turkish base, he may expect Putin to reciprocate with the same number for Damascus.