The shocking impact of the twin explosions which killed 55 people and injured almost 400 in Damascus Thursday, May 10, galvanized Bashar Assad’s allies, starting with Iran, into frenetic activity. Within hours, Tehran had ordered its Lebanese proxy Hizballah to open up its arms stores and run quantities of weapons and military equipment across the border to the Syrian army – a striking reversal of the routine direction of arms supplies. Thursday night, Washington quietly asked Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to put a stop to the traffic.
While the Syrian opposition and Assad regime blamed each other – or al Qaeda – for the worst attack Damascus has seen in the 14-month uprising, it was obvious to both that it must have been the work of a major and very professional undercover agency.
In Tehran, Moscow and Beirut, the scale of the bombing attacks which leveled a key Syrian security headquarters was judged a sharp escalation in the offensive for President Assad’s overthrow – more intense even than the NATO campaign which last year removed the Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
DEBKAfile’s sources in Moscow say the event has consequently cast a dark shadow over relations between the Obama administration and Vladimir Putin at the outset of his third term as Russian president.
This week, Putin pointedly declined to attend the G-8 summit of world leaders meeting next week at the US presidential retreat of Camp David. He decided to send Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over in his place.
The Russian president has three large bones to pick with Washington: a) He suspects American hands of stirring up opposition demonstrations against him during his election campaign; b) He is flat against the US missile shield going up in Europe and the Middle East to intercept Iran’s ballistic missiles; and c) He is solidly behind the Assad regime which he accuses the US of seeking to overthrow.