Russia has carried out its first air strikes in Syria shortly after receiving an official request of help from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and approval from the Russian parliament authorizing Vladimir Putin to send military troops into Syria. Similar to the slow mission creep in the Ukraine, Russia’s rapid deployment to Syria for the first time in three decades is a far cry from the earlier excuse that Russia was only providing weapons and training to help the Syrian government army combat ISIS. Russia has sent more than two dozen fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, surface-to-air missile defense systems and hundreds of troops to its only naval facility outside the former Soviet Union in the Syrian port of Tartus. However, new satellite images suggest two new military bases may be in the works to host Russian troops which suggest a much-expanded presence.
Russia has defended her actions as part of its national interests (Russia claims hundreds of its citizens are in Syria helping ISIS and could return home as a threat) and that it would only use its air force to strike ISIS. This is already being contradicted by the French Defense Minister who claims that the Russian strikes were in the Western part of the country where ISIS militants are not based and new reports suggest that the air strikes hit an area primarily held by anti-Assad rebels who are backed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Russia has as much motivation to hit other rebel groups as it does ISIS in order to keep Assad in power and keep US supported groups from expanding their influence and reach. Syria’s main Western-backed opposition leader, Khaled Khoja, president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, has already called Russia’s military involvement in the region an “invasion”. CONTINUE