Russia and North Korea continue to ship weapons and ammunition to Syria, despite the ongoing bloody repression of the Syrian uprising by security forces loyal to president Bashar Assad. Senior opposition figures who spoke to Haaretz have confirmed that the shipments are being paid for by the Iranian government.
Two cargo ships, from Russia and North Korea, are expected to arrive on Saturday in Syrian ports.
The two ships – ODAI from North Korea and the 5000-ton Professer Katsman from Russia, are scheduled to dock today in Latakiya and Tartus ports on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. According to reports in Arab media, the Professor Katsman is carrying arms for the Syrian army and a very senior figure in the Syrian opposition said that North Korea is also continuing to send arms to Syria. The shipments arrive by air and sea and they are being paid by a special slush fund that the Iranian government set up for this purpose.
According to the figure, in the past when Syria received arms from Russia, when it still was the Soviet Union, the payment was in goods, and delayed for twenty years, but today Russia demands cash in advance for weapons. Iran is assisting Assad in many ways, including military advice and technology, says the opposition source, but the most significant help is the supply of ready cash to pay for weapon supplies. Nearly all the arms and equipment of the Syrian army are of Soviet or North Korean origin and they urgently need spare parts for the vehicles and ammunition and shells to replace what was fired against pro-democracy demonstrators over the last 15 months throughout the country.
The arms shipments continue since Russian and Chinese diplomatic pressure has so far prevented the United Nations Security Council from authorizing sanctions and weapons embargoes on Syria. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called upon member-nations not to sell arms to the government or the rebels.
In recent weeks, weapons shipments to the rebels have also increased, mainly through Turkey. These weapons are being financed by the Sunni Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabi and Qatar. Last week, the Washington Post reported that U.S. military and intelligence advisors were assisting the Saudis and Qataris, by assessing the capabilities and needs of the Syrian rebel forces.
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