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Moscow warns Washington against missile strikes on military facilities in Syria

August 26, 2013, 16:34 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, August 26 (Itar-Tass) - U.S. military officials do not rule out possible missile strikes on military facilities of the Syrian army in retaliation for unconfirmed use of chemical weapons by the country’s government forces.

High-ranking politicians from the United States, Great Britain and France are discussing by telephone the scenarios of different actions against Damascus, Western media reported.

According to the international organisation Doctors Without Borders/Medicins Sans Frontieres, more than 3,600 people have been taken to hospital in Damascus with neurotoxic symptoms over three hours on Wednesday, August 21, and 355 people died. The Syrian government affirms that not the country’s authorities, but their terrorist enemies, used the weapons.

U.S. President Barack Obama said live on the CNN TV channel that events in Syria affect vital U.S. national interests over stopping the spread of mass destruction weapons. Obama also noted that Washington should be on guard for the interests of its allies and U.S. military bases in the region.

He put it clearly that the United States was pondering possible action against the Damascus authorities, which the U.S. accuses of using the weapons. Meanwhile, the U.S. president voiced concerns that strikes on military facilities of the Syrian army may drag the U.S. into a new long war. Obama does not rule out a ground military operation in Syria. U.S. warships have already started their redeployment in the Mediterranean Sea.

Moscow viewed Washington’s threats against Syria with deep concern, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday.

“There is an impression that some circles, including those who call more and more actively to launch a military intervention bypassing the United Nations Organization, are seeking all out to cross out Russia-U.S. joint efforts of the last few months to convene an international conference over a peaceful settlement of the crisis,” Lavrov noted.

“Meanwhile, we are particularly bewildered with the statements of several high-ranking U.S.officials that the use of chemical weapons is allegedly proved,” the Russian foreign minister said. He called for refraining from forcible pressure on Damascus, not to yield to provocative acts and to seek to promote normal conditions for a mission of U.N. experts to have an opportunity to conduct thorough, objective and unbiased investigations.

After the telephone conversation, the Russian Foreign Ministry said John Kerry had pledged to study attentively the Russian arguments.

Possible foreign military interference in the domestic Syrian conflict is not out of the question, the President of the Institute of Middle East Studies, Yevgeny Satanovsky, told Itar-Tass on Monday.

“It is clear that any wars, any intervention, including those by their scientific definition, should be accompanied by information wars, information pressure, which, by the way, easily grow on a hot stage,” he said in comments on the statements of officials in the U.S. and Great Britain that they do not rule out the use of force against Syria.

Meanwhile, in the view of the expert, the U.S. is not interested in interference in the Syrian conflict. “It is possible to defeat Syria easily, but the U.S. will definitely not carry out a ground operation in the country. Only local conflicts are possible near the storages of chemical and biological weapons. This war is still unclear for U.S. interests despite the efforts of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to drag the U.S. into it,” Satanovsky noted.

He said regional rivals of Damascus primarily called for an expansion of the armed conflict. “Turkey is eager to engage in the fighting. But taken alone, without the support of other NATO countries, the country will not fight,” the expert added.

“The U.S. would not like to repeat its failures in Iraq so the country hopes for quite fair and all-embracing information,” the chief scientific fellow of the Centre of International Security, Institute of World Economics and International Relations at the Russian Academy of Sciences, retired Major General Vladimir Dvorkin told Itar-Tass. But the situation was paradoxical because “even if the rebels used the chemical weapons, it is always possible to say that they cannot produce sarin themselves and that means Assad is to blame for irresponsible and provocative storage of chemical weapons,” he said.

“U.S./NATO military actions in Syria will most likely be taken in an air operation without a ground invasion,” Dvorkin predicts. As for Russia’s response, in Dvorkin's view, it may follow in the form of moderate indignation, “Russia will not take any defensive actions, only some measures to ensure security of the Russian naval base are probable.”

Deputy Director of the Institute of U.S. and Canada Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, retired Major General Pavel Zolotarev told Itar-Tass that he doubts the U.S. will decide to deliver missile strikes on the positions of government forces in Syria. “U.S. President Barack Obama has enough common sense not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors as in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. Speaking on the reasons for open threats from Washington against Damascus, Zolotarev noted “The use of force in the modern world contributes to the creation of background, not for the sake of defeating the enemy but for attaining concrete geopolitical goals.”

“Several high-ranking functionaries of the U.S. Republican party even thank Russia that the country’s position of principle in the U.N. prevented Washington from engaging in an armed conflict with Syria at the present moment,” Zolotarev noted.