Russia has launched its first airstrikes against ISIS.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia suddenly escalated the stakes in his contest with the West over influence in the Middle East on Wednesday, as Russian pilots carried out their first airstrikes in Syria.
Russian warplanes dropped bombs near the central city of Homs, according to American officials in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make a public statement. Moscow informed American officials in advance, they said.
The attack came hours after Mr. Putin pushed a measure through the upper house of Parliament approving the use of Russian military forces abroad.
Given the traditional incompetence of the Russian air force and the cavalier attitude the Russian military has towards civilian casualties we would be correct in viewing this as more of a political act than an military one.
While Obama has been “leading from behind” in the war he created, the Russians are seizing the political opportunity to turn the conflict in Syria into a strategic coup that will result in Russia expanding its influence in the Middle East beyond that which it had during the height of the Cold War.
Before the strike was launched, the Russians ordered that US aircraft cease flying missions over Syria:
The development came after Pentagon officials brushed aside an official request from Russia to clear air space over northern Syria, where Moscow intends to conduct airstrikes against ISIS on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, according to sources who spoke to Fox News.
The request was made by a Russian three-star general who spoke with U.S. officials at the American embassy in Baghdad, sources said. The general, who was not identified, used the word “please” when delivering the verbal request, known as a “demarche,” according to the written transcript of the exchange.
“If you have forces in the area we request they leave,” the general said.
A senior Pentagon official said the U.S., which has also been conducting air strikes against ISIS, but does not support Assad, said the request was not honored.
In the short term, this is probably the case but if the Russians pick up their operational tempo, it will become critical that Syrian airspace is centrally managed to avoid unfortunate “close encounters of the worst kind” between US and Russian aircraft. The only battle management aircraft available are US so at some point we will either do what the Russians have requested, that is, stop flying over Syria, or we will be roped into helping Russia keep Assad in power by clearing their flights against targets chosen by Assad and the Russians.
The Russians are making a big show of this being an air only deployment:
Sergei B. Ivanov, Mr. Putin’s chief of staff, appealed to the upper house, the Federation Council, for the measure to approve the use of force, describing it as an open-ended deployment of the Russian Air Force to support Mr. Assad — at his request — in his fight against the Islamic State.
“We’re talking exclusively about operations of Russia’s Air Force, as our president has already said, the use of armed forces on the ground theater of military operations is excluded,” Mr. Ivanov said in remarks to a closed session of the council that were broadcast after the measure was approved unanimously 162 to 0. Eight lawmakers were absent.
“It will be air support for the Syrian forces in their struggle with ISIS,” Mr. Ivanov said.
But that is a short term move. Russian military transport ships are surging through the Bosphorus and there is exactly one place they are headed:
Observers in Istanbul are gathering evidence of what seems to be increasing Russian naval activity of a military nature — ships moving from the Black Sea towards the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus Straits. Turkish ship-spotters have described numerous vessels, including a general-purpose tank landing ship with bow and stern ramps for unloading vehicles. They speculate that these might be bound for Syria. Euronews sent an official request for comment to the Russian Defence Ministry, but received no immediate response. Photographer Yörük Işık, who is an amateur military ship observer, said: “In our observation group, the most important development we have seen is that commercial ships have also been used to carry military equipment, although not explosives. There are pre-fabricated barracks, water tanks and military trucks; we saw the logos used by Russian troops deployed in Ukraine.”
Other observers have reported intense training exercises by Russian attack helicopters in southern Russia:
Russian warplanes as well as helicopter gunships will be deployed in Syria, according to experts quoted in the Russian news media. The Federation Council vote came on the same day the government announced intensive maneuvers involving MI-28 attack helicopters and others in southern Russia.
And as a sign that Russia intends to stay and that their presence isn’t all that benign, they have begun moving advanced anti-aircraft systems into Syria, presumably to defend against the ISIS air force:
Moscow is sending an advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Syria, two Western officials and a Russian source said, as part of what the West believes is stepped-up military support for embattled President Bashar al-Assad.
The Western officials said the SA-22 system would be operated by Russian troops, rather than Syrians. The system was on its way to Syria but had not yet arrived.
“This system is the advanced version used by Russia and it’s meant to be operated by Russians in Syria,” said one of the sources, a Western diplomat who is regularly briefed on U.S., Israeli and other intelligence assessments.
Two U.S. officials separately confirmed the information. The second U.S. official said the United States had indications that, although the entire system had not arrived, some control system components for the SA-22 had been positioned at an airfield near Latakia, an Assad stronghold.
Keep in mind, that this system hasn’t been sold outside Russia and the strategy used by the Arabs during the Yom Kippur war was to move anti-aircraft systems forward to keep Israel from flying close air support missions. It probably wouldn’t be wrong to look at this as the beginning of a tech transfer program designed to strengthen the Assad regime and protect it against Israeli airstrikes as the fight against ISIS goes on.
The Obama regime has been peddling the story that they welcome Russian involvement in Syria because the Russians will get “bogged down” there.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the United Nations General Assembly on Monday that the U.S. and its allies had made an “enormous mistake” by refusing to cooperate with the Syrian government in a fight against Islamic militants. Putin portrayed himself as a kind of regional power broker who would lead a coalition to stamp out ISIS and other extremists.
To which several U.S. officials privately laughed and wished Putin luck.
Two U.S. officials told The Daily Beast they more or less hoped that Russia did dive into what they called the “quagmire” of Syria, a conflict that the U.S. has kept at arm’s length by limiting its involvement to airstrikes directed exclusively at ISIS and al Nusra forces.
“If he wants to jump into that mess, good luck,” one official said, noting that Russia had become bogged down in Afghanistan a generation ago in a fight against Islamic radicals.
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told reporters that the Russians may be “making a terrible strategic mistake” by deepening their military involvement in Syria. He also warned of the “risk of running into a quagmire.”
This is the kind of juvenile response we’ve learned to expect from this bunch of assclowns. Russia will not become “bogged down” in Syria because they will be collaborating with Syrian, Iraqi, and Iranian ground forces to undertake the hard work of counterinsurgency. And, unlike Afghanistan in the 1980s, no responsible foreign power is going to begin arming ISIS.
What Russia is doing is setting up a joint headquarters (actually, to be correct in my terminology it is a joint combined) to coordinate Russian, Syrian, Iraqi, and Iranian efforts to fight ISIS.
Russian, Syrian and Iranian military commanders have set up a coordination cell in Baghdad in recent days to try to begin working with Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Islamic State, Fox News has learned.
Western intelligence sources say the coordination cell includes low-level Russian generals. U.S. officials say it is not clear whether the Iraqi government is involved at the moment.
Describing the arrival of Russian military personnel in Baghdad, one senior U.S. official said, “They are popping up everywhere.”
The Russians already have been building up their military presence in Syria, a subject expected to factor prominently in a planned meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in New York Monday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
While the U.S. also is fighting the Islamic State, the Obama administration has voiced concern that Russia’s involvement, at least in Syria, could have a destabilizing effect.
Moscow, though, has fostered ties with the governments in both Syria and Iraq. In May, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi flew to Moscow for an official visit to discuss potential Russian arms transfers and shared intelligence capability, as well as the enhancement of security and military capabilities, according to a statement by the Iraqi prime minister’s office at the time.Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani also was spotted in Baghdad on Sept 22. He met with Shia militias backed by Iran; intelligence officials believe he met with Russians as well.