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Ahram Online is reporting this morning:

Russia sends naval flotilla to Syrian port: Report
As Russian warships arrive at naval base at Syrian port Moscow denies flotilla mission is linked to escalating violence in the country as reported by Interfax news agency
AFP, Tuesday 10 Jul 2012

Russia has sent a naval flotilla of six warships led by an anti-submarine destroyer to its naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday.

The Admiral Chabanenko and three landing craft have left their home port of Severomorsk in the Arctic Circle on their way to the Mediterranean where they will be joined by the Russian patrol ship Yaroslav Mudry as well as an assistance vessel, a military source told the agency.

"The programme of the voyage includes a call in the Syrian port of Tartus," the unnamed source told the news agency.

The source said the trip was taking place in line with the plans of military readiness of the Russian fleet. According to Interfax, the source insisted that the deployment "was not linked to the escalation of the situation in Syria."

"In Tartus the ships are going to top up on supplies of fuel, water and foodstuffs," the source said, adding that their deployment in the Mediterranean would last until the end of September.

There has been talk of a Russian Naval force heading for their naval base in Syria since the middle of last month. It looks like they have finally arrived.

Also in the Breaking News department on Syria today, we have reports [AFP] that Kofi Annan is in Iraq for talks with Maliki on Syria.

Things are happening very fast in the Syrian situation right now, Watch is diary for updates throughout the day.

MORE BREAKING NEWS: Kofi Annans new "hotspots" peace plan has been leaked today the Guardian live blog is reporting:

• Details have emerged of Kofi Annan's new "ground up" ceasefire plan for Syria, starting with a single "hotspot" and extending from there. Minutes of Annan's meeting with Assad appear to have been leaked to a Lebanese newspaper (see 4.16pm).

• Annan said today that Iran should be "part of the solution" to the crisis in Syria, after meeting Iran's foreign minister in Tehran. Last month Annan wanted Iran to be invited to a meeting of his 'action group' on Syria, in Geneva, but the US and UK objected.

• Russia has offered to hosts new talks on Syria, after opposition leaders travelled to Moscow for talks. Meanwhile, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit to Moscow next week (see 3.53pm).

• Jordan is to open emergency camps for Syrians fleeing the continuing violence. The activist group the Local Co-ordination Committees in Syria said 28 people have been killed in Syria today. It recorded 12 deaths in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.

4.16pm: Syria: The Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, regarded as sympathetic to the Assad regime, appears to have been given the Syrian government's minutes of the Assad-Annan meeting yesterday.

The report is in Arabic, but the ArabSaga blog has an English translation. It adds some detail to Annan's remark earlier today about "an approach from the ground up in some of the districts where we have extreme violence" (see 1.46pm).

"So let's try again, let's agree a mechanism for a ceasefire starting with any one of the (Syrian) hotspots. We can then duplicate it in another," Annan suggested.

Once again, Assad proved fully amenable before asking his guests: "We are a state, government and official authority, which means when we give you our word on a ceasefire we become accountable to you. But who will you be negotiating with on the other side?"

At this point, Annan began answering together with Gen Mood [head of the UN observer mission, who was also present].

Annan and Mood said, "We at least got to know the major groups. We got to know their chiefs. True, they don't have a unified command or a clear command structure. Their armed chaos is massive. But we got to know their key figures. That's why we believe we can work and proceed with them step by step."

Annan is then quoted as saying:
Let's try again. Our observers would reach an agreement with the armed groups in the area where we choose to start. At the same time, we would ask for a goodwill gesture on your part in the chosen area. The gesture would see you observe a unilateral ceasefire in the designated area, of say four hours, pending the mutual ceasefire's entry into force.
Later in the meeting, according to the report, Assad named Dr Ali Haidar, minister of state for national reconciliation affairs, as his nominee for any talks with the opposition.

Annan said he would have preferred "someone closer" to Assad, but Assad is said to have replied:

Dr Haidar and I shared adjoining desks throughout my university years specialising in ophthalmology. Do you want someone closer than that? Anyway, I think your greater difficulty will be on the other side, not on ours. Will you be able to get a name to represent the opposition?
In related breaking news this morning, Jay Solomon and Keith Johnson are reporting in the WSJ that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is sending diesel fuel to Assad. All the protesters aren't dead yet so they've got to keep those tanks rolling.    

                              Mass protest in Aleppo today | July 10, 2012

Anti-government protest kicked off in the Kisweh suburb of Damascus | July 10, 2012

       Victims of random shelling on Kafar Sejneh village in Idlib province last night

Joret Alshayyah,Homs, Assad's rockets hitting the heavily populated neighborhood | July 10, 2012

                      A child wounded by Assad's forces in Homs today

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria
UN Observers say violence in Syria is ‘Unprecedented’
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
BREAKING: WikiLeaks releases 2.4 million #Syria emails
When did "Never Again" become "Whenever?" | #Douma
BREAKING: Incredible mass rally in Aleppo, Syria today!
BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout

Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 5:31 AM PT: RIA Novosti is now saying that the Russian warships are being sent to Syria to break any blockade:

Moscow, July 12 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russian Navy warships will be sent to defend Russian merchant vessels in the event of a blockade due to the situation in Syria, an official said.

"The fleet will be sent on task to guarantee the safety of our ships, to prevent anyone interfering with them in the event of a blockade. I remind you, there are no limits," said Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of Russia's military technical cooperation agency.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Did you see Richard Engle on Rachel last night? (8+ / 0-)

    Evidently the rebels control more of Syria than people are reporting.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 07:27:41 AM PDT

  •  Question. Are they there to pick up, or drop off? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17, Oh Mary Oh, mookins, OIL GUY, llywrch

    Ramps to ships go both ways, and there has been a lot of pressure on Russia, not just from us, but from others.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 07:29:34 AM PDT

    •  I thought perhaps they are evacuating the Russians (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      agnostic, Korkenzieher, Oh Mary Oh

      that are in that country.  This kind of thing was done in Libya.

      •  I think that's right (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Oh Mary Oh, agnostic, mookins

        The Russian naval deployment isn't really news. There are tens of thousands of Russians in Syria, and this deployment was meant to provide assistance to them if conditions continue to deteriorate, which seems likely. The Kremlin is worried about the safety of its citizens, and rightfully so. Some day, hopefully, they'll start being concerned over the fate of the people of Syria too.

        The Bush Family: 0 for 4 in Wisconsin

        by Korkenzieher on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 07:55:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If tis a move to withdraw, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Mr. Assad will find himself homeless quite soon.

          What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

          by agnostic on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 08:03:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Big difference between withdrawal (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ...and evac of citizenry and non-essential people. The Russians will not be withdrawing from Syria any time soon. They need those southern ports. That was true 400 years ago, and it's true today.

            •  no question. But they have to hedge their bets (0+ / 0-)

              If they see Assad's ass in a sniper's crosshairs, they will run, not walk, to make nicely nicely with the opposition.

              Assad's close family fiend and top general just defected. That's gotta hurt some. How quickly do you think that the French officials made him available for questioning to the Russian Embassy reps? Probably within hours of his arrival in Chuck de'Gaulle.

              What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

              by agnostic on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 09:35:45 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Why do they need (0+ / 0-)

              those southern ports?

              •  why do we need Diego Garcia Island? (0+ / 0-)

                for which we pay top dollar to our english speaking friends across the pond?

                What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

                by agnostic on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 10:04:45 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  We don't actually need Diego Garcia (0+ / 0-)

                  but Russia needs Tartus because...I don't know.  Maybe Crimea is not a good enough vacation spot for sailors on leave?  Because Russia's small, coastal offense/defense navy likes to make short trips across deep water that is pretty safe?  

                  •  I suspect the pentagon would disagree (0+ / 0-)

                    rather strongly.

                    It is a major base for both air force and navy projection. Supplies, ammo, fuel, manpower, all smack dab in the Indian Ocean, ready for transport to middle east, far west, indian, pakistani or northern africa sites.

                    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

                    by agnostic on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 10:27:18 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  It's too small for that (0+ / 0-)

                      It's a small airbase that is conveniently on the Arabian Sea but not on Indian, Pakistani, Omani, or Yemeni soil.

                      But back to Tartus- what good is it as a Russian base?  Militarily it serves primarily to annoy Turkey, which is a nonproductive policy of Moscow's.   More importantly, of course, it provides a means by which Putin's mafia government supports the Assad mafia government.  Which is part of a coalition of similarly anarchic/despotic militarist governments, warlords, and armed factions extending from Gaza and Beirut to central Afghanistan with HQ in Teheran.

                      •  SMALL airbase? that routinely handles (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Claudius Bombarnac

                        the largest US military planes, including the B-2, and the biggest transport monsters?

                        define small, please.

                        What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

                        by agnostic on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 04:32:41 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

  •  The neocons want another war in Syria (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jhm453, appledown

    Wolfowitz wants  a war in Syria

    and McCain wants a war in Syria

    Hopefully this will not happen.   Russia is right to object to another intervention and war there.  

    •  There is a war in Syria. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clay Claiborne

      Only question is who wants to take part in it.

      •  There is a small scale civil war at this point (0+ / 0-)

        but there is no war involving us and europe.   We have no place intervening in civil wars and supporting one side.   The Assad regime is bad, but it seems that the rebels have also committed terrible crimes.    I am not convinced they are any better.  

        Russia and China are absolutely right in trying to stop another massive war.    The neocons have been proven wrong again and again.    

        •  Higher casualty count than war of 1948. (0+ / 0-)

          Call that small scale?

          This is a massive war at this point.

        •  If the the Assads aren't (0+ / 0-)

          toppled this time, they'll get toppled next time.  With additional casualties.

          Basically you have a a Catch-22.  The more brutish a regime is, the tougher its opposition.  The more casualties a regime creates, the more casualties that will be retaliated for by their relatives and friends.  Accounts are kept and will be settled in blood, that is a truth of pre-Modern culture.

          All people like you are doing is trying to prevent the inevitable and in the process you're siding with dictators whose time is past.  That is conservatism, frankly.   All this to deny a few right wing idiots in Washington a pretend victory.

          As MLK said, when you're in the wrong you cannot be too conservative.  

          •  You sound like (0+ / 0-)

            Paul Wolfowitz or John McCain.  Congrats.  Do you like wars?  Did you vote for McCain in 2008?

            •  I see you (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Clay Claiborne

              didn't answer any of my arguments straight.  You seem to bear out the one about being possibly driven to idiocy yourselves by a parochial American matter- vindictive and obsessive hatred of a few right wing idiots on this side of the Atlantic- rather than the merits and necessities of Syrians and Syrian affairs and Syrian history.

              I'm a liberal.  I'm one of the kind that that doesn't go out of the way of a fight when what is stake is important.  I'm what is called a historically informed liberal interventionist- when true democratization is the realistic possible outcome and the just one, I side with it.  Kind of helps that I grew up almost within sight of the Iron Curtain and got to know what lay behind it and the significance of the crushing of the Prague Spring.

              It's also no secret to me what lies behind these Left-conservative efforts against liberal interventionism.  The embittered, myopic, failed post-Vietnam lives.  The subtle funneling of KGB/FSB money to sustain bizarre "news" websites and an obstructive anti-liberal/ pro-Russian faction inside the American Left.  Ironic that you would be serving an oil company based imperialism, but that's how it works.  You're not supposed to understand it.

              And I most definitely didn't vote for McCain; I probably knew who Paul Wolfowitz was several years before you did and think worse of him than you do.  But the wrong and evil at times do, inadvertently, that which the good cannot.  They expend themselves on other evil folk.

              This particular process of dictators starting to fall and difficult decisions about whether to aid the democratic rebellion will continue throughout our lives.   Many of the rebellions will fail, often deservedly.  But on the whole they will win and take one country for democracy after another permanently.  Dubious and low quality democracy at first, of course, but ever improving in quality.  Residual empires- UK, Russia, China- will be losing their portions held by conquest to secession and rebellion.   If you side with the old order in such places, you will have to accept losses.  Slowly enough that it doesn't seem like a strong pattern, but somehow it just won't stop.  It would seem a wiser stance to expect that the pre-Modern forms will not endure.

              •  You may denounce... (0+ / 0-)

                by words the neoconservatives, but you clearly agree with them.   Your argument above could have been written by Wolfowitz, arguing how we need to support "freedom fighters" to help people liberate themselves etc.  

                So, would you support intervention and bombing of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, etc?   They all have bloody dictators in power.    Paradoxically, the neocons only see bad dictators, when they are not our allies.    Maximum hypcrisy.  I am waiting to hear if you think that NATO bombing the Saudis, the Bahrainis, the UAE, and other pro-western dictators would be a good idea.

                •  As far as I know (0+ / 0-)

                  the average people of those countries still generally support these rulers, and do not revolt for democratization, almost purely because of fears of Iranian hegemony.  

                  When the current regime in Teheran falls, and the next one credibly declares no desire and no military capability to impose its rule outside Iran's current borders, then I think we'll see democratic movements emerge in these countries.  And if the Iranian threat has truly diminished to zero, support for the current rulers will rapidly fall to the point where they will have to yield.  Some will have to flee, others might be able to negotiate themselves a ceremonial position.

                  I have doubts that there will be significant warfare.  These countries all have rather small militaries, mostly to put down revolts from the right (by tribes and Islamists) but not large enough to perform major coups.  The major US move will probably be simply declaring that the US military is no royal family's private army.  Popular revolts for liberal democratization tend to be nationwide; the ones put down or nearly put down have been in countries that were prepared to fight wars with significant other countries.  This is is not the case for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, etc.  They can't put down a popular uprising themselves.  If they do call in mercenaries to do so, that would probably be intolerable.  Unlike Gaddafi and the Assads, Gulf monarchs have lots of nice cushy places to go if they don't get their hands too bloody.

                  Israel's current variety of governments are also supported on the basis of having to fight the regime in Teheran and its proxies/allies.  With regime change in Teheran and concurrent collapse of its dependents- the Assads (if they survive the present), Hezbollah, Hamas- the countries and lands around I/P will probably cease their war postures and much less belligerent Israeli governments would get elected.  

                  I'm perfectly fine with regime change of the Jerusalem-Riyadh axis and expect it.  But for it to happen requires regime change on the Damascus-Teheran one.

              •  Well put! (0+ / 0-)

                Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

                by Clay Claiborne on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 01:25:44 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  So is your position that if a government decides (0+ / 0-)

          to execute a good part of its population, the world should not stop it?

          Russia has supplied and is supply most of the weapons that are killing Syrians on both sides of what is already a massive war.

          The people of Syria started protesting the Assad dictatorship. The Assad started using its Russian supplied weapons to kill the protester.

          Soldiers started defecting, taking their Russian made weapons with them to form the FSA.

          Russia only directly supplies one side, the side that murders 99% of the civilians, but both sides are fighting with Russian weapons. I've seen plenty of proof of that. I've yet to see anything like that level of proof for a single bullet or gun from NATO or Qatar has played a role in this struggle.

          Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

          by Clay Claiborne on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 01:20:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

            How about Bahrain?  Do you know who sells weapons to Bahrain?  Do you know who sells weapons to the Saudis?  These regimes are worse than Assad's regime.  

            •  Oh really, by what measure? (0+ / 0-)

              The Syrian government has murdered more than 15,000 of its own people in the last 18 months. I know the corresponding number for Bahrain is 95. How many in Saudi Arabia?

              Clearly there is no point in arguing either fact or opinion with you because your positions are fixed and determined well outside of this forum.

              And yet I can always count on you to position long comments to my blogs parroting the Russian position on Syria and Libya.

              You know the Russians pay bloggers for what you are doing? You may be missing a pay check.

              Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

              by Clay Claiborne on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 01:34:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  LOL (0+ / 0-)

                You are the one who supports neoconservative positions and argues for interventions and wars.   I am against all dictators and have made it clear all along.   The Assad regime is not as bad as the Saudis or the Bahrainis, in the sense that it is not a theocratic regime.   The Saudis and the Bahrainis (to whom we sell weapons and support) have horrendous theocratic regimes.   There are more people killed in Syria because the Saudi backed rebels were given weapons and things escalated to a civil war.     That does not mean that the Saudis and Bahrainis are better than Assad.   They simply have our support and our weapons and any uprising there did not get any coverage in the media here.   We have no idea how many people have been killed in Syria and how many in Bahrain.   All is a propaganda war and real numbers are unknown.   The 15,000 that you cite is based on "unconfirmed reports" by the opposition.

            •  I just watched a Russia Today segment on how (0+ / 0-)

              Saudi Arabia was worst than Syria minutes ago, so clearly you are on message.

              Remember history, Clay Claiborne, Director Vietnam: American Holocaust - narrated by Martin Sheen

              by Clay Claiborne on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 01:49:37 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  heh, the damn commies are more peace-loving than (0+ / 0-)

      the US and A (all apologies to Borat).

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 09:40:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, and social conservatives here (0+ / 0-)

        are upset that 'militant' gay people are doing all kinds of things they don't like- demonstrations, lawsuits, law changes, lobbying, petitions, telling them things they don't like to their faces.

        I mean, what's not to like about a status quo that is wrong and obsolete?

    •  Why are you talking about them when Russia (0+ / 0-)

      is the one sending ships?

  •  It's a bit of a trek from the Arctic to Tartus. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And it involves running through several dangerous traps:

    The Norway Coast.

    I bet the Russian ships will turn back.

  •  'Syrian rebels' aim not democracy but dictatorship (0+ / 0-)

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