The key phrase from this article:
That is, everyone’s just biding time to see how far the other side is willing to go in support of their vision for Syria's political future...
Over the past 48 hours or so, we’ve seen what certainly appears to be visual confirmation of a non-negligible Russian military presence in Syria. For anyone coming to the story late, overt Russian involvement would seem to suggest that the geopolitical “main event” (so to speak), may be closer than anyone imagined.
Russia’s excuse for being in Syria is the same as everyone else’s: they’re there, ostensibly, to fight ISIS. As we mentioned yesterday, and as we’ve detailed exhaustively as it relates to Turkey, the fact that ISIS has become a kind of catch-all, go-to excuse for legitimizing whatever one feels like doing is a dangerous precedent and Turkey’s crackdown on the Kurds proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Islamic State will serve as a smokescreen for more than just the preservation/ouster (depending on which side you’re on) of Bashar al-Assad.
Vladimir Putin looks to have confirmed the scope of Russia’s military role, even if he stopped short of admitting that Russian troops are engaged in combat. Here’s The Telegraph:
Russia is providing “serious” training and logistical support to the Syrian army, Vladimir Putin has said, in the first public confirmation of the depth of Russia’s involvement in Syria's civil war.
And while the highlighted passage there is actually impossible to prove given that the term "depth" is subjective, it certainly does appear that Putin is now willing to concede that support for Assad goes far beyond "political". Here's AFP as well:
"To say we're ready to do this today -- so far it's premature to talk about this. But we are already giving Syria quite serious help with equipment and training soldiers, with our weapons," RIA Novosti state news agency quoted Putin as saying.
Speculation is growing that Russia has significantly expanded its involvement in recent months, including with deliveries of advanced weaponry, a raft of spare parts for existing machines, and the deployment of increasing numbers of military advisers and instructors.
Last week Syrian state television released images showing an advanced Russian-built armoured personnel carrier, the BTR-82a, in combat. Videos have also appeared in which troops engaged in combat appear to shout instructions to one another in Russian.
Of course whether or not the troops Russia has on the ground were sent to Syria with explicit orders to join the fighting is largely irrelevant when the bullets start flying. As Pavel Felgenhaeur, an independent commentator on Russian military affairs told The Telegraph, “it was quite conceivable that members of the advisory mission occasionally found themselves in combat or had even suffered casualties.”
So in other words, they’re at war, and even as Putin is now willing to admit, with a two year (at least) lag, that Russian boots are indeed on the ground, it may be a while before he admits to their role in direct combat and if Ukraine is any guide, he might never acknowledge the extent of Russia's involvement. But make no mistake, the Russian presence has nothing to do with the “threat” ISIS poses to the world and everything to do with ensuring that Assad’s forces can fight on - at least for now.
And lest anyone should forget what this is all about...
Russia is building a military base in Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s heartland, according to American intelligence officials, in the clearest indication yet of deepening Russian support for the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The anonymous officials say Russia has set up an air traffic control tower and transported prefabricated housing units for up to 1,000 personnel to an airfield serving the Syrian port city of Latakia.
Russia has also requested the rights to fly over neighbouring countries with military cargo aircraft during September, according to the reports.
The claims, which will raise fears that Russia is planning to expand its role in the country’s civil war, will ratchet up tensions between Moscow and Washington over the future of Syria and its brutal ruler.
Mr Obama on Friday met King Salman of Saudi Arabia to repeat their demand that any lasting settlement in Syria would require an end to the Assad regime.
It leaves the US and Russia implacably opposed in their visions for Syria.
John Kerry, Secretary of State, telephoned his Russian counterpart to express US concerns on Saturday.
"The secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-Isil coalition operating in Syria," the department said.
As the migrant-train standoff entered its second day in Hungary, with thousands of mostly Syrian refugees seeking passage to Germany, it’s time the West recognized this shift in Muslim populations for what it is, say American activists who have been warning of a “fifth column” for years.
“To emigrate in the cause of Allah – that is, to move to a new land in order to bring Islam there, is considered in Islam to be a highly meritorious act,” Spencer wrote.
And now, looking at Europe and America, a migration invasion of a much greater magnitude is underway.
The Syrian operative claimed more than 4,000 trained ISIS gunmen have already been smuggled into Europe – hidden among innocent refugees, reported the Express, a British newspaper.