February 1, 2012
In confidential conversations with his advisers, Syrian President Bashar Assad is reported by Persian Gulf sources Tuesday, Jan. 31 to have threatened to start up armed hostilities in the region if the UN Security Council Tuesday night endorses the Arab League proposal for him to step down and hand power to his deputy.
Those sources told DEBKAfile that the heads of the Syrian armed forces and intelligence have been given their orders and some units are on the ready. Other Middle East sources reported that the Lebanese Hizballah has also shown signs of military preparations in the last few hours. And the Russian flotilla berthed at the Syrian port of Tartus, led by the Admiral Kutznetsov aircraft carrier, also appears to be on the alert for ructions in the wake of the Security Council Syria session.
During the day, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov warned that pushing the Arab League’s UN resolution was “the path to civil war.” Our Moscow sources report that top-level discussions are still going back and forth in the Kremlin over a final decision on a veto.
DEBKAfile reports that the military flurry in advance of the critical Security Council session included US naval movements. Sunday, Jan. 29, the nuclear submarine USS Annapolis, escorted by the guided missile destroyer USS Momsen sailed through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea. This looked like a Washington warning for Tehran to keep its military fingers out of Syria if the confrontation there escalates.