U.S. intelligence agencies believe three Russian amphibious warships in the eastern Mediterranean are carrying weapons shipments to resupply the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Pentagon official
told Barbara Starr of CNN.The Kremlin recently upped the ante off the coast of Syria by sending sent its only aircraft carrier to join its Pacific Fleet — which entered the Mediterranean waters for the first time since the Cold War in May — and sent six warships from its Black Sea Fleet.
“The Russian defence Ministry started setting up a special force of warships in the Mediterranean in order to protect Russia’s interests in the region,” Syria’s state-run news agency reported last month, citing a spokesman for Russia defence ministry.
U.S. satellites were able to see some indications of containers being loaded onto the ships. Although it’s not confirmed, it’s believed the ships may be carrying some components of the controversial Russian S-300 air defence missile system and other weapons for the regime.
During the 26-month Syrian conflict Russia has provided Assad supplies including guns, grenades, tank parts, fighter jets, advanced antiship cruise missiles, long-range air defence missiles, military officers as advisors, diplomatic cover, and lots of cash.
The U.S. hasn’t been sitting idly by, as seen by the decision to place a Patriot missile defence system and personnel in Jordan (meaning there are Patriot missiles on Syria’s northern and southern borders) after Russia said it would send S-300 missile batteries to Syria.
In November the U.S. began to increase the American military presence in the east Mediterranean, and Starr notes that “the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower will also be in the region [this month] on a scheduled rotation as it returns to its home port on the East Coast.”
Here’s a look at the playground:
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