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US And Russia Simultaneously Announce Intent To Arm Opposing Sides In Syria

Geoffrey Ingersoll
Barack Obama Vladimir Putin
Barack Obama Vladimir Putin

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

In an almost palpable irony, Russian and U.S. officials simultaneously announced their intent to move forward with controversial arms transfers to opposing sides in the Syrian civil war Monday.

If there were any doubts about the proxy nature of Syria for the two sides, the announcements should put them to bed.

Congressional hurdles have been lifted and weapons will soon flow into the hands of Syrian rebels, according to a Reuters report

"We believe we are in a position that the administration can move forward," House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told Reuters Monday.

Half a world away, a representative of Syria's embattled President Bashar al Assad left a meeting with Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

“All agreements between Russia and Syria in the area of arms deliveries are in place,” said Qadri Jamil on Monday. “The contracts continue and are in force.”

The representative of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also asked Russia for a monetary loan, one that Moscow is still as of yet considering.

Meanwhile, the weapons Russia intends to deliver are of the S300 surface-to-air variety — which make enforcing a Western-backed no-fly zone all that much more dangerous, not to mention improbable.

The weapons transfers for the Americans have met resistance from within Washington political ranks. Vetting rebel groups in the middle of a civil war is a very difficult process.

"I think we also have to expect that some of the weapons we provide are going to get into the hands of those who would use them against us," Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told Reuters.

Washington has urged Russia not to arm Assad — especially with weapons that can threaten Israeli airliners in Israeli airspace and, importantly, block Israel from further strikes in Syria.

Israel has outright told Russia that any S300 shipments would be destroyed. Analysts have said bombing those systems would result in Russian casualties .

In the thick of it all, Lavrov leaves his meeting with the Syrian rep and states that Assad is ready to talk peace.

All the U.S. has to do is bring the opposition forces to the table.

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