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The SVR has drawn up an evacuation plan for Mr. Assad if the military situation reaches the point where the regime cannot survive.

According to the newsletter, the SVR plan calls for taking Mr. Assad and his family to Russia. Currently in Russia is Mohamed Makhlouf, Mr. Assad’s maternal uncle and father of Hafez Makhlouf, vice director or Syrian state security.

The SVR plan calls for the Assads initially to travel to the Makhlouf family farm in the Yaafour region on the border with Lebanon, which is said to have secure underground bunkers.

“The SVR, which has a strong presence in Syria, will then see to it that the president and his family are transferred to the Russian naval base in Tartus, some 350 kilometers away, by helicopter,” the newsletter reported Nov. 9.

“To avoid being shot at by rebel rockets on the way, the air convoy will fly over Lebanon where its security will be guaranteed by Hezbollah units positioned along the border. Once they have reached Tartus, the Assads will be evacuated on board the Novocherkassk or the Minsk, two Russian helicopter carriers that are currently cruising the Mediterranean.”

CHINESE WARNING A DAY LATE

U.S. officials told Inside the Ring that one reason Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a harsh verbal attack on China for its role in the near collision of a U.S. warship and Chinese navy vessel was that the Chinese government lied about having issued a no-sail warning before the Dec. 5 incident near Hainan island.

Mr. Hagel called the encounter between the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens and a Chinese amphibious ship that was part of a nearby aircraft carrier group “unhelpful” and “irresponsible.”

“That action by the Chinese, cutting in front of their ship, 100 yards out in front of the Cowpens, was not a responsible action,” Mr. Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon several days after the incident.

According to U.S. officials, Chinese officials and state-run media accounts blamed the United States for the near collision, claiming that Chinese authorities had issued a no-sail warning to all ships not to transit in the area where China’s refurbished Soviet aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and other warships were conducting exercises.

The Chinese Maritime Safety Administration did not issue notices to ships to avoid the Hainan security zone until Dec. 6 — a day after the near collision and three days after naval maneuvers had begun. The warning stated that Chinese navy ships would be conducting training from Dec. 3 to Jan. 3 and that foreign ships must not sail too close.

Still, Chinese state-run propaganda outlets criticized the United States for not heeding the unissued warning.

The official Xinhua News Agency stated Dec. 18 that “even before the navy training began, the Chinese maritime authority posted a navigation notice on its website, and the U.S. warship intentionally carried on with its surveillance of China’s aircraft carrier and triggered the confrontation.”

The official People’s Liberation Army newspaper also blamed the U.S. for not observing the warning.

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