Bloomberg News reported last week that USA intelligence agencies believe they have evidence that Assad is planning a chemical attack, which if it occurs would fall into a pattern of Assad allegedly using such weapons to both terrorize his rebel opponents and prompt civilians to flee the area under siege.
The war that erupted in 2011, one of the most devastating conflicts since World War II, has displaced more than half of Syria's population, including more than five million beyond its borders.
Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russian foreign policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Business Insider that Moscow was alleging a U.S. false flag possibly to help support a weak Syrian government in cracking down on one of the last rebel strongholds, crackdowns for which chemical attacks have become a weapon of choice.
The United States, France, and Britain last week issued a warning to Syria not to use chemical weapons as government forces ready their assault on Idlib. The ship is armed with 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles, exactly what the USA used in their last two attacks on Syria.
Jaafari pointed out that in April, the United States and its allies had carried out an attack on Syria after a chemical weapons provocation. The strikes were launched in connection with a chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma that killed dozens of people. Russia's navy buildup around Syria represents the biggest since Moscow kicked off its intervention in Syria with its sole aircraft carrier in 2015.
Despite reports from Russian Federation accusing the rebels, others suspect an attack could be coming from pro-Assad forces.
But even with its massive naval presence, Omar Lamrani, a military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, told Business Insider Moscow doesn't stand a chance of stopping a USA attack on Syria. "To be frank, the United States has absolute dominance" in the Mediterranean, and Russia's ships won't matter, said Lamrani.
"We will not speculate on the intention of the Russian fleet, but it is important that all actors in the region exercise restraint and refrain from worsening an already disastrous humanitarian situation in Syria", Lungescu said.