The White House has been alarmed by the reports indicating that Russia entered the Syrian Civil War, according to a tweet from Agence France-Presse’s White House reporter, Andrew Beatty.
The reports did not specify what are Russia’s current targets in the military operation in Syria, but it’s likely against the ISIS terror group, which had claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Russia’s military base in the North Caucasus.
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Russia has close diplomatic ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and supports his regime in Syria, which is why any operation against the Syrian government is not seen as possible.
Reporting from the White House, Andrew Beatty also noted that the Obama administration said it would be “both destabilizing and counterproductive” if Russia has begun military operations in Syria.
Images of aircraft similar to Russia’s Yakovlev jets above the Syrian territory triggered speculation that Moscow was preparing to launch airstrikes against some of ISIS targets.
However, the Kremlin then dismissed reports that Russian aircraft was taking part in airstrikes against the terrorist group.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “one shouldn’t believe these reports” when looked at the images.
However, the White House has already taken note and said it is ‘closely monitoring’ reports of Russia entering the Syrian Civil War.
“We are aware of reports that Russia may have deployed military personnel and aircraft to Syria, and we are monitoring those reports quite closely,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Russia dismisses reports of its aircraft being in Syria
Wednesday’s attack carried out by ISIS at the Russian military base in the Caucasus region, a volatile predominately-Muslim area, was the first attack by the jihadist regime against Russia’s military. However, no one got hurt as a result of the car bomb attack.
There have been numerous indications that ISIS is looking for ways to grow its influence in the region with the help of social media as well as the recently launched Furat Media channel, which broadcasts in the Russian language.
However, Chechnya’s leader and a close friend of Putin, Ramzan Kadyrov, called the reports of ISIS recruiting people from the Caucasus region ‘not true’.
There were reports earlier this week that Russia was deploying “expeditionary force” to Syria to set up camps at a government-owned airbase near Damascus.
However, Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed claims that the country’s jets, drones and other military equipment is deployed to Syria.
Although Washington opposes the Syrian government, it has pretty much teamed up with Bashar to fight off ISIS militants. The U.S.-led allied group is carrying out airstrikes in Syrian and Iran, where the Islamic State group has made vast territory gains.
The U.S. has not deployed any of its troops to fight ISIS, but American military are helping to train Kurdish and Syrian rebel forces.
How Moscow supports Syria militarily
However, the reports that Russia’s military aircraft has been spotted in the ISIS-devastated region are not surprising to anyone, according to an active U.S. intelligence official. “The line between training and taking part in combat is fuzzy. But the intelligence community also hasn’t seen anything to indicate that Russians are not taking part in the fight,” the official told The Daily Beast.
U.S. military circles are also discussing Monday’s reports from Israeli news resource YNet that Damascus had received new “expeditionary force” of Russian troops, which turn one of Syrian Air Force units into a Russian advanced base. It is also not ruled out that Russian pilots could conduct airstrikes themselves.
“In the coming weeks,” the author of the YNet’s article wrote, citing Western diplomatic sources, “thousands of Russian military personal [sic] are set to touch down in Syria, including: Advisors, instructors, logistics personnel, technical personnel, members of the aerial protection division, and the pilots who will operate the aircraft.”
The author also noted that tasks of such a contingent would be of pure counterterrorist nature, and it is in fully accordance with the new period of bilateral partnership between Russia and Iran, both of which aspire to save their mutual friend Assad and eliminate the ISIS phenomenon in the region at the same time.
However, the elimination process, which the U.S.-led coalition has been engaged in for over a year, is not as successful as Western officials would like it to be.
U.S.-Russia war inevitable in 21st century
On August 12, Syria’s opposition associated website Syria Net reported that Russian so-called ‘militia’ units are stationed in the city of Salfana, which were deployed to the region as part of foreign military units to defend Latakia.
The most obvious evidence of Russia’s presence in the Syrian Civil War emerged in November 2013, when Russian newspaper Fontanka published an article, exposing the Slavonic Corps, consisting of mercenaries sent to Syria to protect Assad’s infrastructure, particularly his oil wells.
Slavonic Corps mercenaries were recruited by Saint Petersburg-based company Moran Security Group headed by FSB’s Lieutenant Colonel in reserve, Vyacheslav Kalashnikov. This fact alone proves that the group of mercenaries was tightly associated with Russian special forces.
However, the Slavonic Corps suffered a complete failure – 267 mercenaries from the group were surrounded by Syrian rebels consisting of between two to six thousand men in Sukhnah in a town east of Palmyra. Six members of the corps got injured, with two severe injuries, which prompted the Slavonic Corps to head back to its base – somewhere between Latakia and Tartous.
With indications that a war between the U.S. and Russia is inevitable in the 21st century, such moves by the Kremlin only escalate the tensions between Washington and Moscow.