Russia’s shipment of alleged missiles to Syria could “embolden” President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and prolong the country’s civil war, a top U.S. military official said on Friday.
“It's at the very least an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering, so it's ill-timed and very unfortunate,” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon.
Dempsey said his comments were referring specifically to the anti-ship missiles. Reuters reported earlier on Friday that they had been sent by Russia to Syria.
Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki expressed U.S. concerns about Russian arms shipments to the Arab country.
Psaki, however, downplayed the reports as nothing new.
“We remain concerned about any aid that is being provided to help the Syrian regime by the Russians or anyone else, including any form of missile,” Psaki said as quoted by AFP.
“That’s a concern we’ve expressed publicly, and the secretary and others have expressed privately as well.”
According to a report released on Friday by The New York Times, Russia sent Syria a shipment of upgraded Yakhonts anti-ship missiles that would make any naval blockade of Syria more difficult.
“Russia had previously provided a version of the missiles to Syria,” The Times wrote.
“But those delivered recently are outfitted with an advanced radar that makes them more effective,” The Times added, citing American officials.
But Psaki denied U.S. knowledge of the shipment, saying: “We’re not aware of new shipments of these specific missiles,” as quoted by AFP.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned last week that sales like these is potentially “destabilizing,” to the region.