Daily Management Review

Russia Formally Enters Syrian Crisis, Conducts Air Strikes


Russia Formally Enters Syrian Crisis, Conducts Air Strikes
Issuing a warning to the U.S. air force to steer clear while its war planes were in action, Russia launched air strikes against targets in Syria on Wednesday in what is being viewed as Moscow’s biggest intervention in the Middle East in decades.

The rebel sources in Syria as well as the US immediately challenged Moscow's assertion that it had attacked Islamic State.

Reuters reported that the US was peeved at the very short notice that Russia had given to place its air forces at safe distance due to the Russian air strikes. Just an hour’s notice of the strikes was given to Washington, a U.S. official said.

Russia claimed that the air strikes were aimed and designed to help President Bashar al-Assad in his efforts to push back Islamist militants. Assad has been the closest regional ally of Russia in the Middle East.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that the notice of the attack came from a Russian
official in Baghdad who asked the U.S. air force to avoid Syrian airspace during the mission.

There were conflicting accounts of the targets that had been struck in the air strikes from the Russian and the US sources. This underscores the growing tensions between the two former Cold War foes over Moscow's decision to intervene in the Syrian crisis.

Areas that are held by Islamic State were not struck while targets in the Homs area appeared to have been struck, said U.S. officials.

An array of rebel groups including several operating under the banner of the "Free Syrian Army" controls the areas of the province of Homs which were struck by the Russian air force, news agency Reuters reported quoting  activists, locals and rebels. The Islamic state was not named by any of the sources as having any sway over the area bombed.

IS weapons depots, ammunition, communications infrastructure and fuel were hit by its air strikes claiming that the attacks were directed at Islamic State military targets, said the Russian Defense Ministry.

Rebutting the Russina claims, the head of the Western-backed Syrian political opposition said that the Russian strikes had killed at least 36 civilians and targeted areas where Islamic State and al Qaeda-linked fighters were not present.

Sources said that the Homs area is crucial to Assad's control of western Syria and any insurgent control of that area would bisect the Assad-held west, separating Damascus from the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartous. Russia operates a naval facility in the coastal region.

France, which is against Assad continuing as the Syrian president claimed that the Russian striking of Homs and the opposition groups but not IS indicated that the aim of the strike was to prop up Assad, a French diplomatic source said.

Observers see the Russian latest intervention as having escalated the Syrian crisis into an international
conflict. Till now the Syrian conflict was limited to a proxy war where outside powers were arming and training mostly Syrians to fight each other. Except China, now all of the major military powers of the world are active in the region.