Fox News is exclusively reporting that Russia has demanded American warplanes exit Syrian airspace immediately, as Russia begins its bombing campaign on behalf of Bashar Assad.
The news came from a senior U.S. official, who said there was “nothing to indicate” the U.S. was complying with Russia’s demand.
Another defense official said, “We have had every indication in recent weeks that (the Russians) were going to do something given the build-up.” That’s an interesting claim, because just a few days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry was saying Russia’s long-term intentions were unclear, and he thought their buildup of air power in Syria was merely for “force protection.”
The inventory of aircraft and weapons Russia moved into Syria includes advanced air supremacy fighters and surface-to-air missiles, which would have no conceivable use against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, or any other Syrian rebel group, as none of them have an air force. The planes were slipped into Syria using clever subterfuge designed to defeat satellite surveillance, which is something else no element of the Syrian rebellion has.
“The Russian demand also mirrors one made by Turkey this past July, when Ankara asked U.S. planes to fly only in airspace south of Mosul, Iraq. In that case, 24 Turkish jets bombed Kurdish positions, catching the U.S. off guard,” Fox News writes.
Also on Wednesday, the Russian parliament unanimously voted to give President Vladimir Putin war-fighting authority in Syria. Putin’s chief of staff, Sergey Ivanov, said only a “time-limited” air campaign is envisioned.
Russian bombs are already falling on Syria according to some sources, and the first targets reported include a rebel group vetted and supplied by the United States:
— Green lemon (@green_lemonnn) September 30, 2015
Update, 10:30 AM EST: According to CNN, the Russians sent an official to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to announce the Russian strikes, and “request” the removal of American planes from Syrian airspace, with only an hour or two of warning before the Russian strikes began.
The CNN report also notes that the Russians have given “no geographical information” about where they planned to strike. That’s a remarkable gesture of contempt, an incredibly reckless and dangerous approach, and possibly an indication that the Russians are planning to blow up some people they think the United States would have warned.
Update, 11:00 AM EST: Further testimony that Russia isn’t primarily interested in bombing ISIS positions, and has caused significant civilian casualties with its first wave of bombings:
— Conflict News (@Conflicts) September 30, 2015