U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is preparing to meet with his Israeli counterpart Moshe Ya’alon, a multi-day meeting at the Pentagon which is expected to focus almost exclusively on Syria and the prospects of Israel attacking them more.
After repeated Israeli attacks, Ya’alon is expected to emphasize a recent assessment by Israeli Air Force Chief Amir Eshel, who declared that Israeli is within “10 minutes” of a full-scale war with Syria.
Beyond that, Ya’alon is expected to press Hagel to do something to prevent Russia from delivering S-300 air defense systems to Syria, which would make it more difficult for Israel to launch air strikes against them.
Israeli officials have repeatedly told Russia and anyone else that will listen that the delivery of the S-300s will mean war, and Ya’alon even made comments suggesting that Israel was open to attacking the Russian Navy to try to sink the S-300s before their delivery. – AntiWar: Hagel, Israeli DM Talks to Focus on Attacking Syria
Russia Hits Back at U.S. Over Syria
“We had a meeting with American representatives in which Americans tried to present information to us about the regime’s use of chemical weapons, but frankly speaking, the evidence Americans set out looks unconvincing,” Yuri Ushakov, the Kremlin’s top foreign-policy aide, said Friday, according to Russian news agencies.
Mr. Ushakov cited the flawed intelligence assessment from the administration of former President George W. Bush about weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq war but said he didn’t want to “draw any parallels.”
Other Russian officials were more direct. “The data on Assad’s use of chemical weapons is fabricated just like the lies about weapons of [Saddam] Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction,” read a tweet on the feed of Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Russian parliament’s international relations committee. “Obama is going down the path of G. Bush.”
The Kremlin opposes any international action against its longtime client, Mr. Assad. Russian officials have said they plan to fulfill a 2010 contract for the S-300 missiles as a way to deter potential outside military intervention in the Syrian civil war. Western powers and Israel have opposed the sale of the system. – Full Read: WSJ: Russia Hits Back at U.S. Over Syria
Syria no-fly zone would violate international law, says Russia
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that any attempt to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria using US fighter jets and Patriot missiles from Jordan would violate international law.>
Lavrov’s comments on Saturday underline the challenge facing the US at the G8 summit next week where the White Househopes to get international support for further intervention in Syria.
Russia, which has protected President Bashar al-Assad from three UN security council resolutions aimed at pressuring him to end the violence, vehemently opposes any foreign military intervention in the conflict.
“There have been leaks from western media regarding the serious consideration to create a no-fly zone over Syria through the deployment of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and F-16 jets in Jordan,” Lavrov said. “You don’t have to be a great expert to understand that this will violate international law.” – Full Read: Guardian: Syria no-fly zone would violate international law, says Russia
Assad Prepares Offensive as Obama Promises Rebels Arms
An estimated 20,000 pro-regime forces, including fighters from Hezbollah and Iran, are now south and west of Aleppo in preparation for a “huge battle,” according to Dan Layman, a spokesman for the Syrian Support Group, a Washington nonprofit organization that works as a liaison to the the rebels’ Supreme Military Council. Rebels control about 70 percent of the province and about half of the city, he said, citing unconfirmed reports from rebel military officials. – Full Read: Bloomberg: Assad Prepares Offensive as Obama Promises Rebels Arms
Oil Hits 9-Month High As Syria Tensions Escalate
U.S. oil prices rose to the highest level since September on Friday as tensions escalated between the U.S. and Syria.
WTI oil prices climbed more than a dollar to a session high of $98.25 a barrel, a level not reached since Sept. 17, 2012. Brent crude futures were up about $1.50 a barrel, reaching a session high of $106.64 a barrel, the highest price in over two months. Oil was trading slightly off the highs at midday.
Crude oil prices have been range-bound for more than a month until Thursday afternoon when it was reported that President Obama authorized shipment of U.S. weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time. The White House said it had proof that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against rebels. Oil prices extended their gains Friday morning. – CNBC: Oil Hits 9-Month High As Syria Tensions Escalate