Iranian Troops Join Ground Offensive as Russia Bombs CIA-Backed Rebels
As Russian warplanes pounded CIA-backed rebel groups in Syria on Thursday, sources told Reuters that hundreds of Iranian troops had arrived to northern Syria over the past 10 days to join what looks to be a major ground offensive in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered government.
The Iranian troops are set to join fighters from Hezbollah and Shi’ite militants from Iraq, and will reportedly receive air support from Russian fighter jets.
“The vanguard of Iranian forces began arriving in Syria – soldiers and officers specifically to participate in this battle. They are not advisers … we mean hundreds with equipment and weapons. They will be followed by more,” an anonymous Lebanese source told Reuters.
Russian Air Offensive Targets CIA-Backed Rebels
Syrian rebels backed by the CIA told the Guardian that Russian fighter jets targeted their training camp in the northwestern Idlib province Thursday, during Moscow’s second day of air raids across the country.
A training camp belonging to the Liwa Suqour al-Jabal rebel group was hit with nearly 20 missiles in two different raids, the outfit’s commander told the Guardian.
While Russia’s defense ministry said its planes had hit 12 different Islamic State locations, including two weapons storage facilities and a command center, Syrian activists reported that most of the strikes had hit the country’s center and north, a location controlled by yet another U.S.-backed opposition group – Tajamu Alezzah.
Russia: Airstrikes in Syria to Last Three to Four Months
A senior Russian legislator said Friday that Russia’s air campaign against rebel groups in Syria is set to last three to four months, Agence France-Presse reports.
“There is always a risk of getting bogged down but in Moscow they’re talking about three to four months of operations,” said Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, noting Moscow’s bombing sorties are likely to intensify in the coming weeks.
Pushkov noted that although the U.S.-led coalition had conducted over 2,500 air raids on Islamic State positions throughout Syria, they had failed to have any meaningful impact on the jihadist group’s operations. Russia, he said, would have to step things up in order to achieve any significant results.
Top Image: Smoke rises after Russian military jets strike targets on Wednesday Sept. 30, 2015 in the Talbiseh area of Homs in western Syria. (Homs Media Center via AP)
- Al-Monitor: Russian Strikes Again Expose U.S. Disarray
- Time: Hearts, Mind and Humor: Combating ISIS by Making Fun of it
- The Guardian: Wake-Up Call on Syrian Army Weakness Prompted Russian Intervention
- The New York Times: Vladimir Putin Plunges into a Caldron: Saving Assad
- The Washington Post: In Syria, Whose Side is the United States on?