Shortly before the deployment of two American Patriot missiles manned by 400 US servicemen for defending Turkey against Syria was announced Thursday, Dec. 13, Washington quietly recalled from Syrian waters the USS Eisenhoweraircraft carrier and its strike group and the USS Iwo JimaAmphibious Ready group and the 2,000 Marines on their decks.
This US fleet, now on its way to home base, stayed opposite the Syrian coast from the third week of November ready to take part in direct US intervention in the Syrian conflict.
Now that the American warships are gone, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet task force, which docked at the Syrian port of Tartus on Dec. 5, is the only war fleet remaining around the Syrian coast. According to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, the Russian ships came to deliver a large consignment of arms for Bashar Assad’s army, although Russian sources claimed the vessels put into port for minor repairs and refueling.
US naval, air and marine forces pulled back from the eastern Mediterranean, to be replaced American-manned Patriot missile interceptors just as Syria became engulfed in another peak wave of violence. This deeply perturbs Syria’s neighbors, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel. They all fear Assad’s Scud missiles fitted with chemical warheads are pointed at them, no less than rebel forces, and he will have no qualms about shooting or dropping them against any of those neighbors if he becomes desperate. Their intelligence agencies believe the Syrian ruler is just as likely to direct chemical weapons against US military facilities on their soil.