The Russians Are Coming to Aid Syria... Or Are
As yet there is a shortage of proven facts to sustain allegations of
a big new Russian military build-up in Syria
By Patrick Cockburn
Overall, there is little evidence that at this
stage Russia has substantially increased its existing mission –
providing advice and instruction – probably numbering in the
hundreds, plus aircraft engineers and logistics specialists
protected by Russian marines.
Mr Assad’s forces are weaker this year and have
suffered significant territorial losses to Islamic State (Isis) and
a jihadi coalition led by Jabhat al-Nusra. This week the army lost a
large airbase at Abo al-Dohur, which was the last government
stronghold in Idlib province. But the pro-opposition Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights says this was out of service – so it is
a setback but not a crippling blow for Damascus.
The biggest threat to President Assad is probably
where Isis fighters have advanced from Palmyra and are
close to cutting the north-south highway, linking the capital to
cities such as Homs and Aleppo, and the Mediterranean. Isis has also
taken the government’s last remaining oilfield at Jazal.
Russia Sending Advanced Anti-aircraft Missiles to Syria:
Moscow is sending an advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Syria,
two Western officials and a Russian source said, as part of what the
West believes is stepped-up military support for Syria.