U.S. forces arrived ready for possible strikes against Syrian military targets as the Yom Kippur holiday approached, but have pulled back at least temporarily as diplomatic talks appear to hold new promise for resolving the current chemical weapons crisis.
American warships in the Mediterranean pulled back Sept. 11 to waters between Crete and Cyprus according to DEBKAfiles. This signals either a possible change in strategy or a break in American resolve to follow through on military steps to degrade and penalize the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
Sept. 10, Israel and the U.S. had just carried out a missile test in the Mediterranean sea, according to Israel’s Defense Ministry. Specifically the Arrow III missile defense system was tested with a “sparrow” missile, simulating a ballistic missile launched from a plane. Israel’s statement followed morning reports that Russia had detected ballistic objects launched from the central to eastern Mediterranean sea.
According to the Ministry, the exercise Sept. 10 was carried out from an Israeli air force base in central Israel. A U.S. Navy’s European headquarters spokesman denied that any missiles had been fired from U.S. ships in the Mediterranean.
U.S. military forces and allied naval capabilities had amassed an armada presence in the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf since the previous week. This was in preparation to disable the Asad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities in Syria. Russia had responded by bolstering its own military presence off Syria’s Mediterranean coast.
Reportedly, the U.S. had assembled a force of five destroyers off the coast of Syria: the USS Stout, Mahan, Ramage, Barry and Graveley, as well as the amphibious USS San Antonio landing vessel. According to reports by Agence France Presse, the San Antonio was sent to join five U.S. destroyers “already in place for possible missile strikes on Syria”, citing a defense official who spoke Sept. 8 on conditions of anonymity.
IBN Live reported Pentagon officials had named four destroyers and one amphibious ship as present and operating in the Eastern Mediterranean as of Sept. 5. IBN Live also reported the ships of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (USS Nimitz, Princeton, William P Lawrence, Stockdale, and Shoup) were operating in the Southern Red Sea.
U.S. defense sources had been careful to stick to script in maintaining U.S. military actions might be delayed. Sources insisted possible delays would not undermine the effectiveness of air strikes if and when launched to disable Syrian chemical weapons delivery capabilities.
According to anonymous defense sources, “Our intelligence and targeting capabilities offer the president and the nation tremendous advantages.”
According to Interfax sources, Russia had deployed two destroyers along with missile cruiser and anti-submarine capabilities to the eastern Mediterranean region as of Sept. 4. Russia’s only military facility outside of the former Soviet republics is located at Syria’s port of Tartus.
Prior to announcement of the diplomatic proposals currently under consideration, Russia’s Vladimir Putin communicated general warnings about unilateral U.S. action He as well made specific remarks concerning dire and catastrophic impacts might follow if a U.S. strike were to hit a nuclear reactor containing radioactive uranium near Damascus.
Russia already has provided Syria with capabilities to hit back hard against air attacks.
Information Clearing House notes “Russia has sold Syria highly advanced rocket launchers, anti-aircraft missiles and anti-ship missiles. In fact, the P-800 Yakhont anti-ship missiles that Russia has equipped Syria with are the most advanced anti-ship missiles that Russia has.”
China is widely reported to have deployed military vessels to the Syrian coast to observe U.S. and Russian ship activities amid recent tensions and a potential stand-off.