While the US was been surprised and angered by the stunningly fast turn of events in Syria where in the span of less than a month Russia unleashed a massive, Syria-based airborne campaign against what it says are ISIS terrorists, even as the US accuses Putin of targeting "moderate rebels", it has had little recourse in accusing Putin of violating Syrian sovereignty: after all Russia is the only nation that Syria has officially invited to eradicate the "terrorist threat" that is ISIS.
Then, last Friday, Syria raised the stakes once again, when as Bloomberg reported a loyalist of the Assad regime said "terrorism cannot only be fought from the air," making an appeal for more military involvement to defeat Islamic State.
The logical implication is that Syria will next invite, if it hasn't already done so, Russian troops to join the Russian airforce in eradicating the great ISIS strawman which until recently was the pretext for "coalition" forces to bombard Syria with complete disregard for Syrian sovereignty, and the intention of destroying Assad's military so the CIA can conclude a regime change with a pro-western leader, one which will permit the passage of a Qatar gas pipeline.
Whether or not this assessment is accurate is irrelevant, because earlier today the US decided to jump right on it, and as CNN reported, accordint to the latest U.S. assessment of Moscow's activity in western Syria, "Russia has moved several ground combat weapons and troops into the area to potentially back up Syrian forces in the field planning to attack anti-regime forces, according to two U.S. defense officials."
The U.S. views the move as Russia "stepping up its ground activity" in Syria to attack those forces, rather than ISIS elements, according to one of the officials.
It's believed the Russians are positioning the weapons to be able to support a Syrian ground offensive, the officials said.
The equipment includes several piece of artillery, as well as four BM-30 multiple-launch rocket systems -- all considered to be highly accurate weapons. The latter is capable of rapid-fire rocket launches. Several weeks ago, Russia moved about half a dozen artillery pieces into Latakia port.
The U.S. originally had thought that might be for defense of the port, but the latest move is an indication of potential ground attacks in the coming days, the official said. The weapons have been spotted between Homs and Idlib and west of Idlib.
It is not clear if they're now in final position for possible artillery strikes.
The officials also said that Russia has moved electronic jamming equipment into Syria. Both a truck-mounted system and a number of pods that can go on aircraft have been observed. This could potentially give the Russians the ability to jam electronics of coalition aircraft.
What happens next? A very likely course of events is that despite Russia's denials, the Pentagon will use the gambit of a Russian ground campaign, credible or not, to get permission from Congress to send a "small", at first, then bigger ground force of US troops in Syria to, you guessed it, "fight ISIS", but really to do everything to prevent Russian troops from taking over key strategic positions.
What happens then? Well, with the previously discussed Russian naval campaign of Syria as a likely next step, and with both US and Russian warplanes already flying back and forth above Syria, and now both superpowers having a legitimate, if only in the eyes of their own media, justification to dispatch land troops, what was until now a mere proxy war is about to become full blown land combat on Syrian soil, one which will soon involve both Russian and US ground, sea and airborne forces.
The last missing step will be when US cruisers, destroyers and/or battleships park next to the Syrian coastline, within earshot (and every other "shot") away from comparable Russian warships. Keep tabs on the weekly US naval update, because once several US warships weigh anchor in the vicinity of Syria that will be the catalyst for the next and final escalation.
At that point, the world will be one false flag away from what some could call another world war, only this time one launched not in Serbia but Syria.
Last week, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, General Philip Breedlove, suggested that Russia has effectively declared a no-fly zone in Syria.
That contention was supported by Moscow’s rather bold move to effectively instruct the US-led coalition to keep its planes out of the sky starting last Wednesday. Ultimately, The Kremlin has declared a monopoly on Syrian air space for the duration of Russia’s military campaign, marking an epic embarrassment for Washington, and serving notice to the anti-regime forces operating in Syria that there’s a new sheriff in town.
Well, don't look now, but in addition to the de facto no-fly zone, some experts are out suggesting that Russia is set to use its Black Sea fleet to enforce a blockade on the Syrian coast. Here's Sputnik:
Russia's Black Sea Fleet may be used in Syria to blockade the Syrian coastline and deliver armaments, as well as possibly deliver artillery strikes, the head of Russian State Duma's defense committee and former Black Sea Fleet commander Vladimir Komoyedov said.
"Regarding the large-scale use of the Black Sea Fleet in this operation, I don't think it will happen, but in terms of a coastal blockade, I think that it's quite [possible]. The delivery of artillery strikes hasn't been excluded; the ships are ready for this, but there is no point in it for now. The terrorists are in deep, where the artillery cannot reach," Komoyedov said.
Komoyedov added that the size of the naval grouping used in the operation will depend on the intensity of the fighting. He noted that currently, the navy's Mediterranean flotilla is currently sufficient for actions in the given area.
Meanwhile, the aerial bombardment continues unabated as Russian warplanes have reportedly destroyed "a terrorist base in the woods" where tanks - which are ironically Soviet made- were stationed. Here's RT:
The Russian Air Force in Syria has conducted 25 sorties on 9 Islamic State installations in the last 24 hours, eliminating a disguised terrorist base equipped with tanks, a command center and a communication hub, the Defense Ministry reported.
Russian bombers taking off from Khmeimim airbase knocked out a terrorist base hidden in the woods near the city of Idlib, eliminating 30 vehicles, among which were several Soviet-made T-55 tanks.
"Six airstrikes hit the base, and the terrorists’ equipment was fully destroyed,” Konashenkov said.
In any event, the situation is clearly escalating, and as the Russians get more bold with each passing NATO bluff and subsequent fold, the stakes get still higher. As hyperbolic as it may sound, the West is now one Erodgan miscalculation away from open warfare with Russia and Moscow looks to be just days away from enforcing a full naval blockade of what is rapidly becoming a Mid-East Kremlin colony.
Russia’s Sukhoi jets flew 15 sorties over Syria on Monday striking 10 Islamic State targets in various regions, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. 20 tanks and 3 rocket launchers in Homs province near embattled Palmyra were destroyed,
“During the day, Sukhoi-34, Sukhoi-24M and Sukhoi-25 warplanes flew a total of 15 sorties from the Khmeimim airbase. Air strikes were delivered at ten targets of the Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] group in Syria,” Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said in a statement on Monday.
A pair of Su-25Ms (NATO reporting name: Frogfoot) together with an Su-24 (NATO reporting name: Fencer) carried out strikes on two IS targets in the eastern part of Homs province near the city of Tadmur, he said.
“About 20 units of medium T-55 tanks, which were earlier seized by the militants from the Syrian army, have been destroyed [in the strikes],” as well as three multiple rocket launchers, he noted.
A video released by the ministry also showed a strike against an IS ammunition depot in Homs. The ministry explained: “Bright flashes confirm detonation of munitions caused by direct hits of air bombs. Thick smoke provides evidence of fire in the depot.”
The city Tadmur is located in an oasis in the middle of the Syrian Desert and stands about half a kilometer northeast of the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra. The UNESCO protected cultural site was captured by IS in May. They have been gradually destroying archeological artifacts and structures since seizing the ancient city. On Sunday they blew up the Arch of Triumph, a centerpiece of the ancient ruins.
US Central Command reported on Monday that the US-led coalition had conducted airstrikes near Palmyra with “inconclusive results.”
Russian Su-34 bombers destroyed IS headquarters and a command post in the Aleppo province, Konashenkov said on Monday, adding that there had been “direct hits” on structures housing field commanders in Dayr Hafir and al-Bab.
Some 30 IS military vehicles including tanks were destroyed in the forested area near the city of Idlib in northwest Syria, according to the ministry.
“We have irrefutable intelligence, including [intercepted] communications between the militants in the area, [proving] the destruction and damage of the terrorists’ armored vehicles,” Konashenkov said.
With Russia’s Dep. Army Chief due in Israel, Moscow posts 64 S-300 ship-to-air missiles off Syria, N. Israel
Russia’s deputy chief of staff, Gen. Nikolay Bogdanovsky, accompanied by a large military delegation, arrives in Israel for a two-day visit on Tuesday, Oct. 6, to discuss increased coordination between the two militaries. However, Moscow seems to be sending Jerusalem an altogether different message: Friday, Oct. 2, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the surprise deployment of Navy cruiser, the Moskva, armed with 64 advanced anti-aircraft missiles S-300 ship-to-air missiles opposite the Syrian coastal town of Latakia.
Russia, without saying so publicly, has thus created an effective no-fly zone over most of Syria, most of northern Israel, including the Golan, as well as southern Turkey, for US aircraft based there for air strikes in Syria; Cyprus, the site of British air force bases; and Jordan.
The Obama administration has been discussing the possibility of establishing no-fly zones in northern and southern Syria on a number of occasions, but has shelved the plan whenever a decision was imminent. Now, with one move, Moscow has imposed a no-fly zone over Syria.
The presence of the wide-ranging S-300s means that the Turkish, British, Israeli and Jordanian air forces will need to coordinate their aerial operations in Syrian or Lebanese airspace with Russia, or face the risk of their planes being shot down.
The S-300 has a range of 150 kilometers and can shoot down any type of missile, including cruise missiles, as well as planes.
The presence of Moskva off the shores of Syria and close to northern Israel creates a new situation that will very likely be discussed in the talks that start Tuesday in Tel Aviv between Russia’s deputy chief of staff and his Israeli counterpart, IDF Gen. Yair Golan.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during their summit in Moscow on September 21 not to allow S-300 missiles reach the hands of the Syrian military, he made no promises about positioning them on a Russian warship in the Mediterranean facing Syria and northern Israel.
Our military sources point out that Russian air strikes have not been confined to any single area so far, but the injection of S-300s into the war arena widens the Russian air force's options.