Syria Crisis: Russia Puts Troops on the Ground in
the Fight Against Isis
Palmyra may be the first Islamist target to be attacked
By Robert Fisk
September 28, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "The
Uniformed Russian soldiers are now guarding
checkpoints on roads around three military bases on the Syrian
Mediterranean coast as Moscow plans its first attacks on the enemies
of President Bashar al-Assad.
Russian drones – more than half flown by Russian ground controllers
inside Syria – are now flying regularly over Palmyra, which may be
the first Islamist target to be attacked, according to Syrian
military sources. The Syrian army is reporting a vastly improved
intelligence capability around the old Roman city, captured by Isis
in May and used as an execution yard for civilians and captured
government soldiers. Drones are being flown at night over the
Isis-controlled deserts of eastern Syria.
Syrian troops are planning to recapture Palmyra if Russian aircraft
can do sufficient damage to Isis around the city – perhaps within
the next three weeks – but Syrian diplomats have been told by the
Russians that Moscow’s actions depend on reaction to the speech
which President Vladimir Putin makes at the United Nations on 28
September . Mr Putin is expected to present himself as the leader
most capable of destroying Isis after the failure of the US and
other western nations.
Five large Russian transport aircraft delivered further supplies to
the military base adjoining Latakia airport on Saturday afternoon
and civilians in the Mediterranean port say that at night the sky is
alive with jet aircraft. The Russians have brought so much equipment
into Syria – mostly for Syrian army use – that another base near
Tartous has been turned into a military helicopter park, the third
now being used by the Russian military.
Russian fighter pilots are being given the task of taking part in
military operations in Syria, as it would take too long to train the
country’s own pilots to fly the advanced fighter-bombers now
arriving. But Russian troops will not be involved, except in an
emergency, in any ground operations, sources say.
Russian soldiers guarding the air bases, however,
are in full uniform as they share checkpoint duties with their
Syrian counterparts and are not attempting to conceal their presence
from civilians in Latakia. Non-combat though their status may be, Mr
Putin can now claim that he – unlike the western powers – has
soldiers with “boots on the ground” to fight Isis in Syria.