BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria

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First comes this morning's announcement that the UN Observer Mission is standing down in Syria, now comes word that Russian troops are headed to Syria. From the UCLA Newsroom we have this faculty experts advisory:

Armed Russian troops have been sent to Syria to guard the Russian navy’s deep-water port in the Mediterranean coastal town of Tartus, a move likely to frustrate Western efforts to put pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad.

According to Russian sources, these troops are being sent merely to protect Russian bases in Syria. That's what LBJ said the first time he sent US Marines to Vietnam and we know where that led. From Lyndon B. Johnson and the Vietnam War we have:

On 8 March 1965, two battalions of U.S. Marines waded ashore on the beaches at Danang. Those 3,500 soldiers were the first combat troops the United States had dispatched to South Vietnam to support the Saigon government in its effort to defeat an increasingly lethal Communist insurgency. Their mission was to protect an air base...

The US sent its own soldiers in because it found the the troops of its client state were proving unequal to the task of putting down the insurgency. What could be the Russian motivation? Are they afraid Assad's troops can no longer protect the Russian base?

From The Hill's Defense Blog we have this, the most through description of Russian military support for the Assad regime I've seen so far:

Report: More Russian troops heading to Syria
By Carlo Munoz - 06/15/12 03:03 PM ET

Russia is deploying another batch of troops to Syria as Moscow and Washington continue to spar over the best way to resolve the worsening crisis in the country.

A Russian warship carrying a small contingent of troops is en route to the country's naval base in Tartus to provide security for the installation, U.S. officials told NBC News on Friday.

In March, Moscow reportedly sent elite units of Russian marines and special-operations forces to Syria to conduct anti-terrorism missions in the country.

Two months later, a Russian guided-missile destroyer, named the Smetlivy, was sent to Tartus, joining three other warships deployed to the Russian naval base in Syria on March 19, according to reports at the time by Agence France Presse and al Arabiya.

It remains to be seen how the anti-interventionist left will respond to intervention of "foreign boots on the ground" in the Syrian Civil War.

Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:42 AM PT: The NY Times published this today:

Russian Warships Said to Be Going to Naval Base in Syria
Published: June 18, 2012

MOSCOW — Introducing an unpredictable new element into the Syrian crisis, a news agency said on Monday that two Russian naval vessels with marines on board were ready to head for Syria to protect Russian citizens and a naval base there, in what would be the first known reinforcement of Moscow’s military presence since the start of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

The Interfax news agency quoted a Russian naval official, who was not identified, as saying that the two amphibious assault ships would head for the Mediterranean port of Tartus, where Russia has its only warm-water naval base in the region. Russia has been the staunchest ally of Mr. Assad in the 16-month-old conflict, shielding the Damascus government from stern international measures to remove him from office.

Moscow is also Syria’s biggest arms supplier, and the relationship provides Russia with its main foothold in Middle East diplomacy.

Interfax quoted the official as saying the ships were “ready to ensure security of Russian citizens and infrastructure of the Russian Navy logistics base” in Tartus.

The official said the crews “jointly with the marine units they carry are capable of protecting the security of Russian citizens and evacuating a part of the property of the logistics base.”

The Russia Today English-language television news channel said the vessels were currently moored in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Talk of evacuation of material and “protection” of Russian citizens in Syria, who include military advisers, seemed to be one more sign of alarm about the deteriorating security situation there after United Nations monitors announced over the weekend that they were suspending their operations as violence mounts.