Russian and Syrian officials dismissed as provocation on Tuesday Iranian media
reports that Iran, Russia, China and Syria are planning to conduct joint
military exercises in Syria next month.
Iran’s semi-official Fars News
outlet, which has ties to the Iranian government, said “certain unofficial
sources” had confirmed the war games but did not say where those sources were
The report appears to have originated on Arabic language Syrian
media outlet, ShamLife, and was later also published on pan-Arab news site
The Iranian and Arabic reports said the exercises were
scheduled for less than a month’s time.
Other Iranian media outlets,
including the Revolutionary Guards-linked Mashregh News and Mehr News, which is
owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization, also ran the same
report on Tuesday, but did not cite any Iranian official sources as confirming
Fars’s report admitted that there has not been an official
announcement confirming the war games, but cited an unnamed Syrian official
declaring that a joint exercise between those four countries would be carried
Preparations for those exercises would be carried out in the
next few days, Fars quoted “informed sources” as saying, adding that the
exercises would involve ground troops, air forces and naval forces.
ShamLife report, titled “The largest military exercise in the Middle East –
Russia, Syria, China and Iran in ‘World War III rehearsal,’” said sources had
confirmed previous leaks, and that preparations for the exercise were being
carried out at an “accelerated pace.”
According to ShamLife, China had
gained Egyptian approval to allow 12 Chinese ships carrying military equipment
to pass through the Suez Canal, and that these vessels would reach the Syrian
ports of Tartous and Latakia in two weeks.
ShamLife said Syrian air
defense missiles and its coastal defense would be put to the test in the
military exercises, and that 90,000 troops from the four countries would be
involved in the war games along with 400 aircraft and 1,000 tanks and “hundreds
The exercises would be carried out after Syrian troops had
“cleansed” several cities where “armed groups” – Syrian opposition forces
fighting against government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad – were
The Syrian opposition has frequently accused the Iranian
regime of supporting Assad and providing his forces with material and equipment
to suppress the revolution.
Fars added in its report that no official
sources from Syria, Russia, China or Iran had confirmed the war games would take
The Fars report also noted that in addition to the Chinese ships,
Russian nuclear submarines and warships would also sail to Syria.
Tuesday afternoon, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that a political and
media adviser to Assad had denied that the war-games would take
“Nothing of the sort will happen. This is one of those mendacious
reports that is being disseminated [about Syria],” adviser Bouthaina Shaaban
said, according to Interfax.
Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported
late Tuesday afternoon that a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman also dismissed
reports of the Syrian war games as attempts to “further escalate the situation
Russian news outlets also on Tuesday said Russian naval
officials also denied reports that its Black Sea Fleet ship, the Caesar Kunikov
(BDK 64), a military landing craft home-ported in Sevastopol, had set sail for
RIA Novosti cited an unnamed Black Fleet officer as saying the
Kunikov set sail for a routine test at a training base and was not headed to the
According to RIA Novosti, the same fleet commander also
dismissed reports in the Ukrainian and Western media that another Black Sea
amphibious ship, the Nikolai Filchenkov, was headed to Syria carrying weapons
Later on Tuesday, RIA Novosti said the Russian Defense
Ministry had denied reports that the Russian Navy was sending a Baltic Sea Fleet
warship, the Kaliningrad, to Syria.
Syria’s Tartous port is home to a
Cold War-era Russian naval supply and maintenance base, which was established in
1971 and Russian naval personnel still staff.
In July 2009, RIA Novosti
reported that the Russian Navy planned to expand and modernize its Tartous base,
the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean.