Emboldened by recent gains on the ground and a new wave of support from his allies, Bashar al-Assad gave a new interview today, boasting about the arrival of new Russian missiles meant to scare off foreign intervention. In the interview, which will air on Lebanese television later tonight, Assad says his army has received the first shipment of S-300 missiles that were recently promised to them by Russia, a move the Moscow foreign office called "stabilizing."
The arrival of the rockets seems to have dashed hopes for any serious attempt at peace negotiations, since Russia's decision to supply more heavy weaponry — in the face of loud protests from other nations — appears designed to prolong the war rather than end it. (Or, more likely, tip the outcome in Assad's favor.) Assad makes that claim himself in the interview, saying that "Our armed forces have regained the momentum" and "the balance of power is now with the Syrian army."
Israel has already stated that they consider the new missiles to be threat, claiming that despite their defensive nature, the weapons can be used for attack and could reach deep into Israel. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalo warned earlier this week that the arrival of the missiles would be considered a threat, adding, "If, by some fortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do."
Assad, of course, had an answer for that as well, saying in the interview that Syria will respond to any Israeli attack on its soil. Israeli forces have previously gone across their border to take out Syrian weapons, without retaliation, but again, the overt support of Russia may make Assad more confident about acting out.
On Saturday, a European arms embargo on Syria will expire, opening the door for new weapons shipments to the rebel side as well. So while some diplomats push for talks, the flood of new weapons will only escalate the violence and a make a peaceful solution a near impossibility.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.