The leaders of Iran and Russia both said they would oppose any foreign military intervention in Syria, amidst speculation that the U.S. may seek to ship arms to the Syrian opposition if diplomatic pressures against President Bashar al-Assad completely fail.
According to a statement from the Kremlin, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discussed by telephone the dramatic situation developing around Syria. The sides spoke out in favor of Syrians themselves overcoming the crisis as swiftly as possible through exclusively peaceful means, without foreign intervention.”
Moscow also said that Medvedev and Ahmadinejad called for an internal Syrian political dialogue without preliminary conditions (suggesting they would not accept the forced removal of Assad).
The heads of state agreed that the main task now -- including in the framework of international organizations, primarily the United Nations -- is not to allow civil war, which could destabilize the situation in the entire region, the Kremlin’s statement added.
Along with China, Russia has thwarted efforts by the West to officially condemn and sanction Syria and force Assad to step down. A resolution by the United Nations Security Council to reprimand Assad was recently vetoed by Moscow and Beijing.
In defending its veto, Russia explained that the UN resolution was “unbalanced” and reflected “tendencies that are cause for our concern: attempts to isolate the Syrian leadership, reject any contacts with it and impose a political settlement formula from outside.”
Iran is also believed to be supporting the Syrian regime.
Separately, according to a report from Reuters, Russia has stepped up arms sales to Syria, despite growing international pressure against such transactions.
Russia has reportedly delivered weaponry valued at $1-billion – much of it likely used to kill thousands of Syrian civilians.
Mahmoud Suleiman Haj Hamad, the former chief auditor for Syria's Defense Ministry who defected in January, told Reuters that he estimates one half of all arms imports prior to Assad’s brutal crackdown came from Russia, with 30 percent from China and North Korea.
Hamad also said the Damascus has dramatically increased its military budget last year.
Before the uprising, Russia was trading weapons with Syria in a more limited manner. More recently ... Russia began giving more weapons to Syria, he said.
To my knowledge, Russia was shipping monthly.”