Iran warships deployed on Syria coast (TELEGRAPH UK) By Adrian Blomfield, Middle East Correspondent 02/21/12)
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Iranian warships were docked on the Syrian coast today in a fresh
round of brinkmanship designed to demonstrate Tehranís support for
its isolated ally amid fears that the uprising could escalate into a
In a self-proclaimed show of force, officials in Tehran boasted that
the presence of the vessels in the port of Syrian Tartus in the
Mediterranean was a demonstration of Iran´s military "might".
Israel said it was closely monitoring the situation, although there
was no sign that it was preparing to put its navy on alert as it did
last February, when Iranian warships ventured through the Suez Canal
for the first time.
In itself, the mission poses little tangible threat; the two vessels,
a 49-year-old corvette and a supply ship, are both dilapidated,
reflecting the broader nature of Iran´s puny navy.
But, despite the posturing nature of the display, it comes at a far
more sensitive time than Iran´s previous foray into the Mediterranean
last February, just before Syria´s uprising began.
Amid growing evidence of Bashar al-Assad´s disintegrating hold over
parts of his country, fears have mounted that the violence in Syria
could spill over its borders into Lebanon and Iraq, which have a
similar sectarian make up.
In an unusually strong intervention, China gave warning that Western
support for the overwhelmingly Sunni opposition in Syria could tilt
the country into civil war.
"If Western countries continue fully to support Syria´s opposition,
then in the end a large-scale civil war will erupt and there will be
no way this to avoid the possibility of foreign armed intervention,"
the People´s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party,
wrote in a front-page commentary.
The Middle East´s regional sectarian divide has also grown more stark
as the Syrian crisis has worsened. Iran, the region´s most powerful
Shia state, has shown little sign of softening its support for Mr
Assad, whose Alawite minority is an offshoot of Shia Islam.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies in the Gulf have grown
increasingly strident in their opposition to Mr Assad to the point of
favouring regime change, an outcome that would significantly weaken
Iran´s regional clout.
Enjoying the support of Iran and Russia, Mr Assad has shown little
willingness to end the violence against his own people, despite
growing pressure from the Arab League. Activists in Syria yesterday
reported a large army build up around the restive cities of Homs and
Hama, raising fears that the president is preparing to order fresh
offensives against both. The Red Cross said it was attempting to
negotiate a pause in the fighting to allow humanitarian supplies into
vulnerable parts of the country. (© Copyright of Telegraph Media
Group Limited 2012. 02/21/12)
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