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TEL AVIV – Arab countries in the Persian Gulf asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to coordinate airstrikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ahead of presidential elections in Syria scheduled for June 3, informed Middle Eastern security officials told WND.
The request took place during a meeting in Saudi Arabia last Wednesday between Hagel and the defense ministers from the Saudi Kingdom as well as from Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
The security officials said Hagel told the Gulf countries the U.S. would consider the airstrike possibility.
The informed security officials, however, also estimated the probability of U.S.-NATO strikes against Syria is low.
At the same time, the officials said the U.S. is seriously considering two other requests from the cooperating Gulf nations.
Request No. 1 is for the U.S. to provide more serious advanced weapons to the anti-Assad rebels.
The second request, which is less likely to be accommodated, is for the imposition of a NATO-backed No Fly Zone in Syria. Such a zone would restrain Assad’s advances against the rebels.
With the Ukraine crisis ongoing, the Obama administration may be more motivated to act in Syria, where the stakes are high for Russia.
Unless there is a major change on the ground, Assad is widely expected to win the rebel-led insurgency that has been targeting his regime for the last three years, a victory that would enhance Russia’s presence in the region.
The anticipated Assad win will further solidify the position of the large Russian Navy fleet docked at Syria’s Tartus port. That position is more strategic now that Russia has seized the Ukrainian naval headquarters in Sevastopol, where Moscow stationed its Black Sea Fleet.
Control of both the Tartus and Sevastopol ports provides Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, with open access to the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and beyond for both military and energy needs.
Russia and Iran have been the biggest state backers of Assad, while the U.S. and moderate Arab countries worked to aid the rebels fighting to topple the Syrian president.
Sunni Arab countries are operating under the working assumption that Assad’s regime is no longer in danger and that the Syrian president will be able to quell the rebellion, Egyptian security officials recently told WND.
According to reports, Assad has already rid Damascus of rebels and has retaken scores of rebel strongholds. His victories were aided by instances of infighting within the rebel ranks, including the open rebellion of several rebel factions allied with al-Qaida.
The Egyptian security officials said Assad still faces pockets of resistance, particularly in the city of Daraa near the Jordanian border and in the north toward the Syrian border with Turkey. These locations contain important supply roads for arms transports to the rebels.