March 15, 2013
Middle East tensions are spiraling sharply six days before US President Barack Obama lands in the Middle East. Thursday night, March 14, an Iranian fighter jet tried to bring down a US Predator drone flying over Oman, i.e. the Straits of Hormuz – only to be warned off by flares from its US fighter escort.
This was not the first time a US drone was threatened by Iranian aircraft over the Persian Gulf, but in reporting the incident, the Pentagon revealed that the drones flying in the neighborhood of Iranian shores are now escorted by US jet fighters.
A couple of hours earlier that evening, DEBKAfile received an exclusive report from its military sources that the Syrian high command had just issued an ultimatum, on the orders of Bashar Assad, demanding that the Lebanese government put an immediate stop to the passage of armed Sunni fighters from Lebanon into Syria, else the Syrian Air Force would strike the Lebanese intruders’ convoys and also their home bases. Damascus claimed they were coming to fight the government alongside the al Qaeda-linked Jabrat al-Nusra.
Their incursion threatened to engender a major spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon.
The danger of hostilities inching close to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Moscow maintains a naval base, decided the Russian Navy to instruct three warships carrying 700 marines to Tartus to change course and put in at Beirut instead.