Syria confirmed Tuesday that it received sophisticated weapons and fighter jets from Russia. This announcement comes amid the release of satellite images that show two new Russian military bases that are being constructed in the northwest of Syria – these sites include a weapons depot and military facility north of Latakia.
The pictures further reveal that Russia is looking to deploy forces in both places. According to AFP, a senior military officer said that the government had received “at least five fighter planes from Moscow as well as reconnaissance aircraft which allow us to identify targets with great accuracy.”
In recent weeks, Russia has increased its support towards Syrian president Bashar Assad. It has supplied around 2,000 military personnel and equipment to Syria. The country has lost around 250,000 people in the civil war. According to the Washington Post, Russia currently has 28 fighter jets deployed in Syria. Russia maintains a military facility in Tartus, where its military specialists have been increased to 1,700.
A Syrian army special forces officer said, “In the past two weeks there has been a noticeable increase in the accuracy and frequency of air force strikes. They actually call us now for more targets to hit. We have been receiving new intelligence, more accurate satellite and aerial imaging of ISIS positions which we never got before.” The officer further said that, “[The Russians] might supply the weapons, but we will be the ones fighting on the ground.”
By deploying more military presence in Syria, Russia’s focus is on the ISIS. It is relying on Assad as an important key in defeating the terrorist group. “Russia guesses that the conflicting objectives of all sides in the Syrian conflict – and of their international backers – will ensure that there can be no political solution for the foreseeable future,” the Soufan Group, a U.S.-based strategic analysis firm, said. “It is therefore taking advantage of this stalemate to increase the chances of Assad’s survival by inserting a significant military presence, while at the same time boosting its own influence in the broader Middle East.”
On Monday, 38 ISIS members were killed in airstrikes, the anti-regime Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Rami Abdel Rahman, the observatory’s director, said, “The number of raids is growing and the strikes are more precise after the Syrian air force received arms and more efficient planes from Moscow.
But some analysts are of the opinion that beefing up military presence in Syria is to strengthen the Assad regime, which has lost its military hold in the war struck country. “Clearly [Putin] would like to shore up his ally, Bashar al-Assad,” David Petraeus, retired U.S. general and former Central Intelligence Agency director, said, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
According to the Guardian, Leonid Isayev, an associate professor of political science at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, said that while Russian military wasn’t participating in the war as of yet but would if Damascus met any kind of threat. “Rumours that Russian soldiers are going to fight on the side of Assad are exaggerated,” Isayev said. “I don’t disagree that Russian specialists are arriving in Syria, our equipment and weapons are being delivered, that’s a fact. We are modernising the base in Latakia, we are modernising the port in Tartus, and that’s being done to prevent the fall of Damascus because rebels are already in the outskirts and there’s a risk of attack.”
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