Report: Russia Boosting Military Shipments to Assad in Syria
As the violence escalates in the increasingly volatile Syrian civil war, Reuters is reporting that Russia is sending more ammunition to aid Bashar al Assad's forces in combating rebels, including "armored vehicles, drones and guided bombs."
Prominent among global supporters of Assad, Vladimir Putin was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by a Russian group for his work in supporting Assad. The report, citing multiple sources close to both the Syrian and Russian governments, alleges that the relationship between the two global leaders remains strong coming into next week's scheduled peace talks in Switzerland between the two warring factions. Reuters alleges that unmanned spy drones, bombs, and other weaponry has been reaching Syria by ship since December. Shipments appear to be coming directly from Russia, though other reports tell Reuters that they may be arriving from Bulgaria, Romania, or Ukraine. All three countries officially denied being involved in aiding Assad; Bulgaria, an EU nation, is particularly unlikely to cooperate in such an endeavor with Putin's Russia, the news service reports.
The three-year old war has taken a significant toll on the Syrian military and replenishing arms munitions is a key to Assad's continued reign in the country. Assad faces a varied and often difficult to identify militia of rebel groups, some which have been alarmingly linked to al-Qaeda this year.
The Syrian Civil War has placed the United States and other Western nations in a precarious political situation. On one end of the struggle: Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who stands accused of using chemical weapons on his own people and, potentially, the crime of genocide. Assad can, as this report further corroborates, count on the support of Putin's Russia, not particularly considered a bastion of human rights (except by Edward Snowden). The rebel fighters in Syria, however, stand accused of a number of violent acts that could amount to war crimes, including attacking Christian villages and convents and roasting enemies to death. Other rebel groups who stand against Assad have clashed with the more fundamentalist Islamic elements in the heterogenous group of rebels trying to overthrow the government, however, highlighting how difficult identifying just who is fighting in this war has been. The United States has still aided Syrian rebels with humanitarian provisions, however, to the tune of almost $1 billion.
Complicating the situation are multiple reports that thousands of citizens of Western countries are traveling to Syria to fight against Assad: hundreds of British, Australian, French, and Spanish citizens, as well as a number of stray Americans. Many officials of a number of countries are concerned that these citizens will return violent and radicalized by exposure to anti-Western Islamic fundamentalist groups.
The death toll of the Syrian Civil War is so high that the UN decided to stop counting the dead this month. In 2013, however, more than 73,000 Syrians were killed in warfare.