Iran, Russia, China, and Syria plan to stage a massive war game over the next few weeks with the participation of 90,000 troops, 400 warplanes and 1,000 tanks making it the “biggest joint war game in [the] Mid-East,” the semiofficial Iranian Fars News Agency reported Tuesday.
The news agency writes from Tehran:
The Iranian, Russian, Chinese and Syrian armies are due to stage joint amphibious exercises along the Syrian costs [sic] in coming weeks, informed sources revealed on Monday.
According to informed sources, 90,000 forces from the four countries will take part in the land and sea wargames due to be held in Syria.
Ground, air and sea forces as well as air defense and missile units of the four countries will take part in the exercises.
Sources also said that Egypt has acceded to grant passage to 12 Chinese warships to sail through the Suez Canal, adding that the military convoy is due to dock at the Syrian harbors in the next two weeks.
The report also references the arrival of Russian and Iranian battleships and submarines:
Russian atomic submarines and warships, aircraft carriers and mine-clearing destroyers as well as Iranian battleships and submarines will also arrive in Syria at around the same date.
Syria plans to test its coast-to-sea and air defense missiles in the wargames.
A sum of 400 warplanes and 1,000 tanks will also be used in the exercises.
A Syrian official, who asked to remain anonymous, had informed two weeks ago that the drills would be conducted in Syria soon.
Russian media contradicted part of the report, as told by The Jerusalem Post:
Iranian news outlets also included details of Russian plans to send two of its Black Sea fleet ships to Syria's port of Tartus to protect Russian citizens. Russian news outlet RIA Novosti contradicted this report, quoting a Navy official as saying the Caesar Kunikov ship did not set course from Sevastopol to the Mediterranean, and that it is rather en route to measure magnetic and acoustic fields, adding that both ships in the Black Sea fleet were carrying out scheduled routine maintenance. Other Russian media outlets also contradicted the Iranian media reports.
Iranian media does not report the goal of the exercises, but Israel National News offers this possibility: “The purpose of the maneuvers is probably intended as a warning to the West in light of their threats to intervene in President Bashar Al-Assad's violent suppression of Syrian opposition.”