Syria: A ‘Virtual Battleground’ For Foreign Dominance? – OpEd


By Andrei Smirnov

Last week was marked by the start of an ‘information war’ surrounding the events taking place in Syria. According to some media reports, British special forces have been sent to Syria to fight on the rebel side, while others say that Iranian volunteer corps are on their way to assist Assad’s regime. Israeli news outlets claim that the US and its allies have sent troops and military hardware to the Middle East. In addition, 10,000 American servicemen arrived in Israel to test the efficiency of the country’s missile defense system. The Voice of Russia’s Andrei Smirnov reports.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed its concern over the reports. Russian officials believe that these claims could be investigated by an Arab League mission which is expected to return to Damascus any day now.

On Thursday, Israeli media reported, quoting ‘informed sources’ that Qatar and British special forces had been brought in and deployed near Homs. According to the reports, neither Qatar nor British special task forces are actually taking part in military operations proper. They have been brought to train and advise rebel commanders in Syria. London has denied the reports. However, questions remain.

On Friday, the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily published a report, quoting Arab sources, that Damascus had requested assistance from Tehran and that 15,000 Iranian servicemen had arrived in Syria to help the government quell the rebellion and fight terror. The Iranian authorities have denied these reports claiming that Tehran is against foreign interference in Syria’s domestic crisis. Oriental Studies expert Vladimir Sazhin believes, however, that there is still a chance that Iran might choose to render military assistance to President Bashar al-Assad.

“Iran and Syria are two old allies. Syria is Iran’s only ally, both in the region and worldwide. Tehran wouldn’t want to lose its support. That’s why Iran will do its utmost to ensure that President Assad’s regime survives.”

At the beginning of this week, Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria. Moscow and Beijing explained that if adopted, the resolution would enable NATO to ‘replay’ the Libyan scenario in Syria. There have already been several attempts to do so.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service Chief Mikhail Fradkov held talks with the Syrian authorities in Damascus on Tuesday. After the talks, Lavrov said that President Bashar al-Assad was ready for a dialogue with the opposition and was prepared to compromise.

“Presdident Bashar al-Assad said that he was committed to any efforts aimed at ending the violence irrespective of where it came from.”

Meanwhile, the situation in Syria is as tense as ever with clashes between government troops and rebel forces still taking place in Homs. An anti-terrorism operation is under way in Daraa. Two blasts rocked the city of Aleppo on Friday as terrorists attacked military intelligence offices and interior troops’ barracks. The Aleppo attacks killed about 30 people and left more than 170 injured.

Arab League foreign ministers have decided to resume the League’s mission in Syria at a meeting they held at the end of the week. Russia has supported the work of Arab League observers in Syria from the very beginning. Moscow is confident that an Arab League mission will be instrumental in bringing the current crisis in Syria to an end.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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