Britain insurer has effectively stopped Russian ship believed to be carrying attack helicopters and missiles for Syria in its tracks off the coast of Scotland with cancellation of its insurance, at the behest of the British Government. According to The Daily Telegraph, the British marine insurer Standard Club said it had withdrawn cover from all the ships owned by Femco, a Russian cargo line, including the MV Alaed.
Meanwhile, US failed to secure the support of Russia for regime change in Syria, facing the prospect of increasing violence in the Middle Eastern country. A joint statement was issued by presidents of both countries regarding Syria at the end of a bilateral meeting of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, on Monday. According to The Guardian, Obama sometimes gestured toward Putin as he spoke but Putin sat more stiffly through the joint appearance. At the end of their statements, as reporters were being ushered out, both sat glumly watching and made no move to re-engage with each other.
In other development, Syria has expelled an Italian Jesuit priest, who has lived in Syria for 30 years, for his outspoken criticism of the government’s crackdown on a popular uprising. The departure on Saturday of Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio who had been helping to restore a 1,000-year-old monastery that became a center for Muslim and Christian understanding, was sudden. The regime does not need criticism.
The Syrian situation is not improving. The international community should deploy a peacekeeping force, instead of the U.N.’s existing, beleaguered observer mission, to help end the killing in Syria, CBS news cited the secretary general of the Arab League as saying on Monday.
In addition to the political uncertainties, there are growing concerns about the security of Syria’s chemical weapons should the regime stay, or fall.
Syria has one of the world’s largest chemical weapon arsenals, according to Leonard Spector, executive director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies based in Washington. Syria, Spector said, is thought to have a number of major chemical weapon complexes, some in areas of current conflict, such as the Homs and Hama regions. The bases are said to be guarded by elite forces, but whether they would stay at their posts if the Assad regime collapses cannot be predicted.
The concern would still be there even if the current regime stays, however, since the government itself could use some of these agents against rebel forces or even civilians in an effort to intimidate them into submission, said Leonard Spector. But the scenario that is causing the greatest concern, is the possibility of Syria’s chemical arsenal falling into the hands of Hezbollah, in Southern Lebanon, or to al-Qaeda. The stake is high with the growing involvement of some of these organizations in the conflict.