Moscow’s military campaign in Syria is relying on supply lines that require air corridors through both Iranian and Iraqi air space. The only alternatives are naval supply lines running from Crimea, requiring a passage of up to 10 days round-trip. How long that can be sustained is unclear.
Early on the morning of Sept. 30, a Russian three-star general approached the American embassy in Baghdad, walked past a wall of well-armed Marines, to deliver face-to-face a diplomatic demarche to the United States. His statement was blunt: The Russia military would begin air strikes in neighboring Syria within the hour — and the American military should clear the area immediately.
It was a bout of brinksmanship between two nuclear-armed giants that the world has not seen in decades, and it has revived Cold War levels of suspicion, antagonism and gamesmanship.
With the launch of airstrikes in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated a proxy war with the U.S., putting those nation’s powerful militaries in support of opposing sides of the multi-polar conflict. And it’s a huge gamble for Moscow and quite difficult and logistically complex. The Russians don’t have much in the way of long-range power projection capability.
That and other questions about Russian military capabilities and objectives are taking center stage as Putin shows a relentless willingness to use military force in a heavy-handed foreign policy aimed at restoring his nation’s stature as a world power. In that quest, he has raised the specter of resurgent Russian military might — from Ukraine to the Baltics, from Syria to the broader Middle East.
VLADIMIR Putin is preparing to send 150,000 troops to Syria in a bid to wipe out the evil Islamic State once and for all.
The Russian leader is reportedly mounting an enormous military mission to take control of the terror group’s stronghold of Raqqa.
The city is the self-declared capital of ISIS in Syria and is patrolled by as many as 5,000 jihadi members.
Putin is set to mobilize 150,000 reservists who he conscripted into the military earlier this week.
It is very clear that Russia wants to sweep up the west of the country, taking Raqqa and all the oil and gas resources around Palmyra. Putin knows that this is fast becoming a race to Raqqa – to secure the oil fields they need to cleanse the region of insurgents, and the IS capital is vital to do that while Obama stance and strategy is to .
It comes a day after Russian jets obliterated nine ISIS outposts in just 24 hours using bunker-busting bombs.
Russian jets pounded terrorist targets and blew up a command center, potentially killing dozens of fighters.
Confirming the successful raids, Andrei Kartapolov from the Russian army vowed to ramp up the pressure, saying: “We will not only continue strikes… We will also increase their intensity.”
And Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said: “Over the past 24 hours, Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-24M fighter jets have performed 20 sorties and hit nine Islamic State installations.
A bunker-busting BETAB-500 air bomb dropped from a Sukhoi Su-34 bomber near Raqqa has eliminated the command post of one of the terror groups, together with an underground storage facility for explosives and munitions.
These and other highly exact means of attack in recent days have been used to target objects of Islamic State terrorists. It is reported that these command posts, stores of weapons and oil products, workshops where weapons of suicide bombers are made.
Meanwhile a terrorism expert revealed that ISIS have vastly exaggerated their military strength and called on Western leaders to launch a coordinated fightback which would obliterate the hate group.
Has ISIS become its own worst enemy with its campaign of terror against the West, which has prompted an international backlash?
Other reports from those strategists say it won’t take very long at all to drive them, if not out of all of Iraq or Syria, then certainly the majority of their territories.
“They will hide in towns, but I would say do not to follow them as they would use innocent civilians as human shields.”
David Cameron initially gave the Russian air strikes a cautious welcome and said the UK would need to look very carefully at Putin’s operations. David Cameron said Russia was targeting anti-Assad rebels over Daesh militants.
David Cameron Has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is making a terrible mistake by sending jets to prop up Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad.
The Prime Minister said most of the Russian airstrikes in Syria appeared to have been in areas not controlled by Islamic State but by other opponents of the regime.
He told the BBC the Russians were “backing the butcher Assad, which is a terrible mistake for them and for the world. It is going to make the region more unstable. It will lead to further radicalization and increase terrorism.
“I would say to them: ‘Change direction, join us in attacking Isil, but recognize that if we want to have a secure region, we need an alternative leader to Assad’.”
But yesterday he warned the intervention is making the situation worse and helping to support the “butcher” president Bashar Assad.
Separately Mr. Cameron pledged to “beef up” the SAS and double the number of British drones to combat ISIS militants in an interview ahead of today’s Conservative conference.
The Prime Minister said investment in Special Forces and surveillance was essential to meeting the terrorist threat facing the UK.
He revealed that the UK will buy a fleet of 20 new Protector Drones capable of targeting IS extremists in Iraq and Syria.
The Russians called it Center 2015: a series of military exercises they carried out in mid-September involving some 95,000 troops. In contrast to common practice, Moscow outlined publicly with great specificity what type of exercises its troops conducted. Its Hind attack helicopters, for example, practiced rocket and bombing runs against ground targets and provided air cover at very low altitude to ground forces. They fired unguided rockets against military columns below. They practiced flying with one engine off—simulating engine failure—at just 650 feet above the ground.
Whether Russia’s incursion into the increasingly deadly Syrian civil war was foreseeable or not—and if it was, whether it was deterrable—is now moot. Russian President Vladimir Putin has in an instant changed markedly the course of a conflict that has claimed at least 250,000 lives and displaced millions—numbers that may yet grow much higher. Moscow and Iran, Damascus’s heretofore primary benefactor, are now making it clear that they are all-in when it comes to defending the current regime. On September 21, Iran began dispatching hundreds of elite Quds Force soldiers—the expeditionary arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard—as well as its leader, Qassem Suleimani, to lead ground assaults backed by Russian airpower against the forces opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They have since been joined, according to intelligence reports, by deployments of Iranian and Iraqi Shiite militias.
They are there for a very specific reason, which is not simply to combat ISIS. By October 5, in fact, the Pentagon had become convinced that the majority of Russian air strikes thus far had targeted not ISIS units, but U.S. trained rebel groups in various parts of the country. The Russian troops are there to combat anyone and everyone who might fight against Assad, who the U.S. and its coalition partners still insist has to go. Indeed, on September 29, at the United Nations, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir could not have been clearer: “Assad has no future in Syria. Any attempt to whitewash him or make him acceptable is a nonstarter,” he told reporters.
The Russian intervention, as President Barack Obama, al-Jubeir and everyone else involved understands, comes at a critical moment. Despite the relative passivity and ineptness of the United States in funding and training anti-Assad rebels, the dictator’s position was slowly eroding as he attempted to fight off multiple rebel groups of varying sectarian and ethnic stripes (everything from hard-core ISIS fighters to more “moderate” Sunnis to Syrian Kurds). For Putin, a man who says repeatedly—because he believes it—that the greatest “geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century was the demise of the Soviet Union.
But from Moscow’s perspective, there likely was more to it than that—much more. The move provides a foothold in a part of the world that the Soviet Union was kicked out of four decades ago. At a moment when the United States appears to be washing its hands of the increasingly bloody and chaotic region, it gives Russia an expanding military presence in the Mediterranean on the doorstep of a NATO ally (its newly established airfield at Latakia in eastern Syria sits just 75 miles from the border with Turkey), and the gambit may yet serve as leverage with the West as Putin seeks to get out from under economic sanctions imposed as a result of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.
Is Putin’s actions game-changing? Obama seemed less impressed—or less willing to congratulate the Kremlin on its cunning, at least in public. All this was done out of a position not of strength but of “weakness,” he said at a White House news conference in early October. “This is not a smart strategic move on Russia’s part.”
Throughout much of the Middle East, that declaration was met with howls of derision (for reasons that we will get to); at home, it was dismissed by many as petulant spin from a president who had been badly wrong-footed in this war. But whether Obama had been wrong-footed or not, the logic behind what he said is not obviously wrong. That Syria’s a snake pit couldn’t be more obvious. And it’s true, as sources in Moscow and the Middle East acknowledge, that if Russia decides more troops are needed to bolster its position, it may be drawn into a quagmire it can ill afford.
Despite a still-grim economy in Russia, Putin remains popular in his country. Most of what he does to show that Moscow is a serious player on the world stage only buttresses that good opinion. But the public appetite for a war against anti-Assad rebels in Syria appears limited, to say the least.
In Sunni Arab capitals around the Middle East, one word is being uttered with increasing frequency: “Afghanistan.” Not the ongoing post-9/11 U.S. war there, but the one before it: when the mighty Soviet army was driven out by jihadi rebels (who were funded by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states) and armed by the United States. As a student of what is known in Russia as the “catastrophe,” Putin knows that the humiliating Soviet withdrawal came in 1989, after a decade of war.
By 1992, his beloved Soviet Union ceased to exist. He also knows that the same countries that aided the Afghan rebels in the 1980s are now funding anti-Assad rebel groups.
So should the United States just say, “After you, Vladimir Vladimirovich? Be our guest! Syria’s all yours,” as GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, among others, has advocated? If at least part of Putin’s plan is to combat ISIS—which, after all, the U.S. seeks to “degrade and destroy”—shouldn’t we welcome Moscow’s intervention, as Secretary of State John Kerry indicated Washington might?
The reasons why that’s probably a terrible idea are numerous. The deployment of the Russian military and increased Iranian ground forces means Assad can stay in power for as long as his two patrons desire. At the same time, there is also little evidence that the axis supporting Assad has the wherewithal to crush the Sunni-backed rebel groups.
It’s hard, therefore, to draw anything but the grimmest of conclusions. Syria—already a “geopolitical Chernobyl,” as former CIA chief David Petraeus recently put it—is about to get worse. Is it possible that the advent of Russian reinforcements is likely only to cement a brutal stalemate that has driven millions of people from their homes, radicalized the region, cause a humanitarian apocalypse, and turn Syria into a magnet for global jihadists?
The Russian move into Syria will only deepen concern among Washington’s traditional allies in the Middle East about U.S. goals in the region. Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies have all watched, with varying degrees of alarm over the last five years, as the Obama administration zealously pursued a nuclear deal with Iran, an archenemy to all of those countries. Obama did so over their strenuous objections. Many suspect—indeed, some are convinced—that his overarching goal in the region was to legitimize Iran, integrate it into the international system so as to, as his stance was back in 2014 to create an “equilibrium” between “Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.”
If Obama’s goal was to get Iran to that place, starting with a nuclear deal, how likely was it that he was going to attack Syria in the wake of its chemical attacks, even having drawn a “red line” in 2012? Similarly, Tehran didn’t want a more aggressively funded and trained Western-backed rebel force in Syria, and Obama hasn’t done much to provide one. Had there been some firm action, we would not be in the place we are in.
This relative inaction has bred toxic suspicions throughout Washington’s traditional allies in the region—suspicions that are rarely voiced publicly but have hardened over the past 18 months. Simply put, they believe the Obama administration has not just pulled away from the Middle East but rather switched horses—backing Iran in search of that equilibrium the president spoke of last year. The White House has consistently and furiously denied this.
Now, with Putin in Syria and Obama just 15 months from his White House retirement, the likelihood that the U.S. will do anything of consequence to change the status quo on the ground is slim. It seems extremely unlikely that Obama will risk a direct conflict with Putin. Any hope of a no-fly zone in Syria, or even an intensification of U.S. airstrikes, is likely gone as well. Indeed, with Europe under tremendous pressure from the crush of Syrian refugees, the fear among Sunni Arabs is that the West will latch on to Putin and Iran as the only hope for reining in Assad.
But that’s not why Russian troops are now fighting in Syria. They are there to prop up Assad by helping him destroy “terrorists”—defined as anyone fighting against his regime. It’s been about four and a half years since Syria’s civil war commenced—since it became a “geopolitical Chernobyl.” The meltdown may have only just begun.