Syria tensions between Washington and Moscow escalate

 

Tensions between Washington and Moscow over Syria escalated yesterday after it emerged that Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, may have indulged in a “little spin” when she charged earlier this week that Russia was delivering attack helicopters to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. 

Both Russia and Syria flatly denied the allegation while US officials quietly conceded that the implication that the helicopters were new may have been inaccurate and that they may instead have been old ones first delivered years ago that were simply being sent back to the Syrians after routine servicing in Russia.

The new row comes as President Barack Obama prepares to travel to a G20 summit in Mexico on Monday where he will have his first meeting with Vladimir Putin since he was sworn in as President of Russia earlier this year. It is likely to complicate efforts by the US and other western powers to persuade the Russians to join them in putting new pressure on Assad into accepting the start of political transition that would see him eased from power.

Even without the chopper squabble, there was never much hope of a breakthrough at the summit in Los Cabos with Russia and China, both of whom have veto powers on the UN Security Council, standing by their positions that sovereign countries have the right to crush internal uprisings if they see fit and that foreign powers should not interfere.  Without progress the already tottering peace effort of the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is likely to unravel entirely.

Violence on the ground, meanwhile, escalated yesterday as a car bomb exploded in a Damascus suburb wounding fourteen people and damaging a nearby Shia shrine. Separately, a group of UN monitors entered the shattered Mediterranean town of al-Haffa last night after it was retaken from rebel groups by government forces.

The diplomatic stand-off is starting to have echoes of the Cold War, when Moscow and Washington were repeatedly on opposing sides in conflicts around the globe.  Whether or not the helicopters are new, any evidence of the Syrian government using them to hit rebel forces from the air with machine guns or missiles could draw Washington further into the conflict particularly if it brought new calls for a no-fly zone.

On Tuesday Mrs Clinton, who in recent weeks has been stepping up her criticism of Moscow, said the US was “concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically”.  With no evidence available of any contracts for new helicopters for Damascus, US officials were forced within twenty four hours to qualify the remark, however. “She put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position,” a senior Pentagon official told the New York Times.

Through its ambassador to Russia, Riad Haddad, Syria offered a first denial of her claim yesterday. “Russia is not delivering any helicopters to Syria,” he asserted.  Threatening to stoke the tensions further, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, meanwhile accused the US of hypocrisy.  Russia insists that any military contracts it has with Syria are for the supply of defensive weapons only to protect the country from foreign attack.

“We are not providing Syria or any other place with things which can be used in struggle with peaceful demonstrators, unlike the United States, which regularly supplies such equipment to this region,” Mr. Lavrov said, singling out what he had said were recent US deliveries to “one of the Persian Gulf states”, interpreted as a reference to Bahrain. “But for some reason the Americans consider this completely normal.”

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam