French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle NATO, which proclaims non-involvement in the Syrian conflict, and Russia, which vows to block foreign military action against the Assad regime, are both moving large naval forces into the eastern Mediterranean opposite Syrian shores.
A flotilla of at least 11 Russian warships has been detached from Caspian Sea, Black Sea and North Sea fleet bases and is on its way to the Syrian coast for a maneuver; NATO has consigned its rapid response Maritime Group 2 to the same stretch of sea – where also five Israeli warships are deployed. The Western alliance has also increased surveillance flights over the Mediterranean from the Geilenkirchen air base in Germany.
This rush of military movements is explained officially by the big air-and-sea exercise launched by Syria Sunday, July 8, to simulate outside aggression. It follows Iran’s practice of continuous military drills for repelling mock Western or Israel attacks.
The exercise began with a barrage of dozens of surface-to-sea missiles simulating naval and shore defense against approaching enemy craft and landing forces.
At about the same time, Iran embarked on a big air-cum-missile defense exercise in the south to fight off potential aggression from the direction of the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Aden, where US air force units are clustered.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that this is the first simultaneous, coordinated Syrian-Iranian military maneuver for drilling action against an advancing enemy. It is synchronized from a joint headquarters established for the purpose in Damascus.