Russia’s denial of military drill story: was it all psy-ops?

ASG’s Counter-Hegemony Unit

So Russia appears to have denied reports which appeared in Fars News today, about a joint military exercise with China, Iran and Syria. Voice of Russia, the Russian government’s international radio broadcasting service, reported today:

    “Russia has denied reports in media that it allegedly planned joint military exercises with China and Iran on Syrian territory.
‘This is absurd’, Mr. Igor Dygalo, aide to Russia’s Navy commander said.
Earlier this week the Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV channel reported that Russia, China and Iran were planning joint exercises, the largest in the Middle East, comprising some 90,000 ground, naval and air forces, as well as 400 aircrafts, 1,000 tanks and Russian submarines, destroyers and an aircraft carrier.
The report said that Egypt had allowed 12 Chinese navy ships to go through the Suez Canal to arrive in Syria.
This false report also claimed that Syria was going to test its anti-ship missiles and air defense system.”

Syria has also denied the reports: “This information is out of synch with reality,” said Buseina Shaaban, political advisor to the Syrian president”.
But it’s no coincidence that this denial comes on the heels of another denial about yet another report which first appeared last week in the non-governmental Russian news agency, Interfax. As reported by the Guardian:

    “The Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified Russian navy official as saying two amphibious landing vessels, Nikolai Filchenkov and Caesar Kunikov, would be heading shortly to the Syrian port of Tartus, but gave no precise date.
The official said the ships would carry an unspecified number of marines to protect Russians in Syria and evacuate some equipment from Tartus if necessary.
Interfax said each of the ships was capable of carrying 150 marines and a dozen tanks. It quoted a deputy Russian air force chief as saying Russia would give the necessary protection to its citizens in Syria.
“We must protect our citizens,” Major-General Vladimir Gradusov told Interfax. “We won’t abandon the Russians and [we will] evacuate them from the conflict zone if necessary.”

State owned, Russian International News Agency, RIA Novosti, denied the story, despite the deputy Russian air force chief’s remarks. Since it is unlikely that Interfax would fabricate a quote or that an air force general would dare reveal or invent such plans without official cover,  both this story and today’s reports about the joint military drill can be viewed as Russian-Iranian-Syrian psych-ops. What lends further credence to this assumption is this story here. A Russian cargo vessel, the MV Alaed, allegedly carrying  refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters and other munitions was stopped 80 km off Scotland’s coast. Apparently, the ship was en route to Russia after having completed the shipment. Particularly suspicious is why the Russians would risk interception on British territory only days after having been warned by the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to halt all defence shipments to Syria.
A very plausible explanation for this flurry of reports followed by coordinated denials, is that the Russians and their allies are engaged in psychological warfare with the United States and NATO/GCC, particularly in the context of the Obama-Putin talks on Syria among other issues. These reports also come in the context of the Iranian-6 power faltering negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, and the possibility of an Israeli/US strike on Iran should the latter talks fail. As such, these psych-ops may well be a direct response to Washington’s repeated threats of military intervention in Syria, which include Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey’s, recent threat to resort to force in Syria. What shape or form Russian intervention would assume if Syria were attacked, remains to be seen though one can expect, at the very least, an increase in covert and overt military assistance to the Syrian government.

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