American intelligence officials have evidence that Russia has moved ground weapons and troops into western Syria. The Pentagon has announced reinforcements for rebels opposing Bashar al-Assad in the region in light of Russia’s support for the dictator.
President Barack Obama has decided to provide more weapons to the “Syrian Kurds and the Arab-Syrian opposition as part of a strategy to put pressure on ISIS from the north and strengthen the border.”
“President Obama was clear that we intend to continue our efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL in Syria and to keep supporting the moderate Syrian opposition,” an official explained to CNN.
The U.S. spotted more artillery, including “four BM-30 multiple-launch rocket systems – all considered to be highly accurate weapons.”
However, Russia insists its does not have any plans to deploy ground troops. Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, head of the Russian Parliament’s defense committee, told the media that “volunteers” fighting in Ukraine might travel to Syria to fight with Assad’s forces.
In early September, Syrian television claimed to show Russian troops and vehicles working alongside Syrian troops. Russian officials denied sending ground troops to Syria, but an anonymous source told The London Times they “have been there a long time.”
“What attracts volunteers apart from ideas? Of course money most likely,” continued Komoyedov.
Interfax reported these volunteers earn around $50 a day.
Admiral Komoyedov spoke to the committee after Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s staunchest allies. Last Friday, Kadyrov told Kremlin propaganda outlet LifeNews his troops are ready to help Russian troops in Syria.
“I’m convinced that not only airborne should be used there, but also infantry, because the faster we finish off ISIS, the more peacefully we’ll live across the territory of global community,” he said. “We Chechens as yet, unfortunately, have no opportunity to participate in the fight against these evil spirits.”
Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met after both spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on September 29. The meeting lasted for 90 minutes, but the men “disagreed on the role Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will have in resolving the civil conflict there.” Obama wants Assad to vacate his presidency, while Russia believes the only way to defeat ISIS is with Assad in power.
Russia began the airstrikes in Syria on September 30. The government announced they had targeted ISIS militants, but an unnamed U.S. official told Reuters there is minimal ISIS presence in the towns the Russian military targeted.
Russian officials demanded all U.S. planes leave Syria while giving the U.S. embassy in Baghdad a one-hour notice before they began the airstrikes.
“They gave us a heads-up they were going to start striking in Syria,” stated a defense official. “It was in the vicinity of Homs.”
During his UN speech, Putin promised his troops would only target ISIS. CNN reports:
A senior U.S. defense official told CNN the Pentagon was “taken aback” by Russia’s actions. “Our presidents just talked about setting up de-confliction talks and now they just go ahead and do this? They cannot be trusted.”
A second U.S. official said: “This is not how military relations are conducted, by banging on the door of our embassy and reading a note.”
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Lavrov told the UN Security Council that Russia received a request from Assad to start the strikes.
“On the 30th of September in response to a letter by the President of Syria, the President of Russia asked and received the consent of the Council of Federation for the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said, adding:
We’re referring here exclusively to the operation of the Russian air force to carry out strikes against ISIL positions in Syria. We have informed the authorities in the United States and other members of the coalition created by the Americans of this and are ready to forge standing channels of communication to ensure maximally effective fight against the terrorist groups.