Kerry scolds Russia over reported sale of missiles to Syria
ROME — Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday cautioned Russia against selling advanced surface-to-air missiles to Syria's government forces, as U.S. officials warn that the delivery of the arms would threaten Israel and undercut efforts to reach a political agreement.
“We've made it crystal clear that we prefer that Russia would not supply them assistance,” Kerry said.
He declined to denounce the reported agreement between Russia and Syria's President Bashar Assad directly, but his warning to Russia was unmistakable.
The United States has said that the proliferation of surface-to-air missiles “is potentially destabilizing with respect to the state of Israel,” Kerry said. “We have made it very clear historically that that is a concern.”
Russia has supplied Assad's forces for a long time, but the potential sale of anti-aircraft weapons threatens to undermine the agreement that Kerry won in Moscow this week to press jointly for peace talks between Assad and his U.S.-backed opponents, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
Russia has sparred with Western governments over sales of helicopter and tank parts to the embattled regime. But the S-300 missiles, if delivered, would represent a huge leap in Syria's ability to defend itself from Israeli airstrikes as well as any future effort to impose a no-fly zone in support of Syria's rebels.
Considered one of the most potent air-defense systems in use, the S-300 can track as many as 100 incoming aircraft or missiles at once and engage up to a dozen, at long range.
“It would be a game-changer,” a senior Western diplomat said of the reported decision to offer the missiles to Assad. The diplomat, who insisted on anonymity because details of the alleged offer remain classified, speculated that Russia could be seeking leverage before talks on a possible political settlement to the Syrian crisis.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah's chief in Lebanon said his militant group will receive strategic weapons from the Assad regime, the Associated Press reported.
Last week, Israeli airstrikes targeted alleged shipments of advanced Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah.
Israel has signaled it will respond with airstrikes to any future weapons shipments, meaning it could quickly get drawn into Syria's civil war if the Hezbollah chief's declaration is more than an empty threat.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Chinese jet buzzes Navy aircraft, Pentagon says
- Russia sends unauthorized convoy into Ukraine
- Witnesses recount secret July raid to free journalist at ISIS base in Syria
- Ebola spreads in Nigeria; Liberian treatment centers inundated
- 18 accused spies executed by Gaza terrorists
- Interpol probes Thailand’s ‘Baby Factory’
- Israel, Gaza militants trade fire after talks fail
- Social media being used to help catch British terrorist who killed Foley
- Peruvian nurse cares for 175 terminally ill cats
- Hamas insists terrorist leader still alive despite Israeli barrage
- Israeli airstrike kills 3 senior Hamas leaders