Several hours ago, Syrian president delivered his first public speech in months, addressing the internal military conflict that has gripped his country, and whose key excerpts can be found here. In it he called for a "full national mobilisation" to fight against rebels he described as al Qaeda terrorists. "We meet today and suffering is overwhelming Syrian land. There is no place for joy while security and stability are absent on the streets of our country," Assad said in a speech at the opera house in central Damascus. "The nation is for all and we all must protect it." Assad once again blamed the west for provoking and "facilitating" the rebellion, which even the NYT admits is being orchestrated by Al Qaeda, which naturally begs the question: just what is Al Qaeda to the US and to its intelligence agencies - foe or ally? But while providing fodder for the pundits, the speech was largely irrelevant. What does merit attention is the follow up to the story from two weeks ago the Russia sent two squadrons of ship to Syria in mid-December. It appears they have arrived, and just in time to offset the positioning of NATO Patriot missiles along the Turkish-Syria border.
From Jerusalem Post:
Russia has concentrated five landing ships in the eastern Mediterranean in a show of force meant to deter Western nations from intervening militarily in Syria, The Sunday Times quoted a Russian diplomat as saying.
According to the report, the ships are carrying military vehicles and hundreds of Russian marines, and are being accompanied by combat vessels.
Remember when the official party line was that ships are being sent to assist in the evacuation of Russian citizens? Looks like not even Russia is going with that anymore.
While officially Russia has claimed the ships have been deployed to partake in an exercise to "improve the management, maintenance and testing of the interaction of naval forces,” the Times quoted the diplomat as saying the marines were meant to deter the West from deploying ground forces in the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Meanwhile in Turkey from Al Jazeera:
EUCOM said in a statement on Friday that US military personnel and equipment were sent to Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey to support NATO's Patriot battery deployment at Ankara's request.
Up to 400 troops are expected to be transported to Tukey within the week to operate two Patriot batteries supporting NATO's mission there. Additional equipment is scheduled to arrive by sea this month.
"The deployment of six Patriot batteries, including two each from Germany and The Netherlands, is in response to Turkey's request to NATO," EUCOM said in the statement issued from its offices in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart.
"The forces will augment Turkey's air defence capabilities and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the Alliance's border," it added.
Yes, we too find it amusing when by de-escalation the US armed forces mean anything but.
Which then leaves the only open question: when?
“Russia should be prepared for any developments, as it believes the situation in Syria might reach its peak before Easter,” the Times quoted the diplomatic source as saying.
In other words, having been unable to convince the world that Iran is a terminal threat to "democracy" everywhere and the window of destroying its nuclear processing facilities now officially closed, and with both the Lebanon and the Gaza conflicts hibernating, the only loophole left to escalate the region is now Syria, where the event timeline now appears to culminate in 2-3 months.
Finally, let's not forget the US naval presence in the region, whose most recent update via Stratfor is shown below. Just need a few more US ships in the eastern mediterranean for things to get fun.