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Russians Launch Air, Land, Sea Assault on Jihadists in Syria

Oct. 7, 2015 (EIRNS)—Russia and Syria have launched an air, land, and sea offensive against jihadist groupings in the last 24 hours. Syrian ground forces, backed up by Russian air cover, have launched operations to retake territory in the Hama and Idlib provinces that have been in rebel hands for months. Even the New York Times today acknowledged that the current offensive has been in the planning for the past four to six months, involving Russian, Syrian, Iranian, and Hezbollah strategists.

On Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Shoigu met with President Putin to give a status report. Much of the meeting was televised. Shoigu reported to Putin that four Russian ships from the Caspian Sea fleet had launched 26 cruise missile strikes against Islamic State targets in northern Syria. The cruise missiles were launched from the middle of the Caspian Sea and traveled 900 miles to their targets—over Iranian and Iraqi air space.

Shoigu told reporters that

“intensive work of different intelligence services over the last two days has made it possible to detect a large number of various IS facilities—command posts, ammunition depots, military equipment depots, training camps of militants.”

He reported that 12 ISIS targets had been hit since Sept. 30 when the offensive began. In the meeting, Putin instructed Shoigu to seek cooperation from the United States, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

Russia received a written proposal from the Pentagon for deconfliction. Russian MOD spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the Russian government

“swiftly considered US proposals to coordinate actions to fight the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria. These proposals can be accepted for implementation in general. We just need to specify some technical details that will be discussed today by representatives of the Russian Defense Ministry and the Pentagon at the expert level.”

Russia has responded to accusations of targeting non-ISIS groups, with a proposal, that any countries who know about specific rebel groups who are fighting against ISIS should share the information with Russia so that the anti-ISIS operations can be upgraded.

In reality, Russian operations have targeted ISIS and also the Army of Conquest, the Saudi-created and Saudi-funded jihadist rebel faction that is dominated by the Nusra Front—the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate. Army of Conquest has targeted the Alawite enclave on the northern Mediterranean coast, and the Russian deployments into the Latakia area have countered that push.

Russia continues to deploy advanced military equipment into Syria. Col. Patrick Lang (USA-ret.) reported on his widely read website on Tuesday that Russia has placed a state-of-the-art jamming system at the airbase south of Latakia, and has, in effect, denied non-Russian fighter planes access to the area.

On Monday and Wednesday, the Turkish government issued statements countering the claims that Turkey is in a sharp conflict with Russia over the Russian deployments into Syria. Acting Prime Minister (pending upcoming new elections) Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed that Russian-Turkish relations are friendly and neighborly, and that there is now a military-to-military commission to deal with deconfliction issues between the two nations. He made clear that the Syria situation will not create a crisis in Turkish-Russian relations.

In another sign of the shifting situation since the Russian bombing campaign began in Syria, Iraqi officials made clear that they want Russia involved in the fight against the Islamic State inside Iraq. Hakim al-Zamili, chairman of the Iraqi parliament defense committee, was quoted in Russia Today:

“We might be forced to ask Russia to launch airstrikes in Iraq soon. I think in the upcoming few days or weeks, Iraq will be forced to ask Russia to launch airstrikes, and that depends on their success in Syria... We are seeking to see Russia have a bigger role in Iraq... Yes, definitely a bigger role than the Americans.”

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi told France 24 on Tuesday that his government would welcome Russian warplanes in Iraq.