Video has surfaced reportedly showing the newly-renovated Russian airbase in Latakia.
The previous post in our Putin in Syria column can be found here.
Al Aan TV, a satellite station based in United Arab Emirates, posted a story on Sunday which suggests there are major disagreements between Iranian and Syrian regime commanders over fighting which took place recently in northwestern Hama province, on the Al Ghab plain which borders Hama, Idlib, and the mountains east of Latakia — the regime’s stronghold. The Interpreter has translated some excerpts:
AlaanTV received information that there are major disagreements between Iranian militia leaders and the regime’s senior officers in Damascus and Hama, according to a regime general who collaborates with the rebels.
He stressed that the disagreements are due to regime forces abandoning all areas captured by Shiite fighters in battles against the rebels, which clearly manifested in the last battles of Sahil Al Ghab.
Pro-regime areas in the western countryside of Hama have witnessed massive security lawlessness for a month now. [Assad] regime security forces no longer have any role in imposing their authority, while weapons are widespread among everyone, even among children under the age of ten, according to activists.
Since the beginning of last week, the regime sent troops from the Fourth Division led by Maher al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s brother, to support and strengthen the militias fighting in Sahil Al Ghab against the rebels. 600 Iranian fighters were sent also for support 14 days ago according to an activist.
This is critical for several key reasons. The fighting in the Al Ghab plain (map) is west of Ma’arat al Nouman and about 40 kilometers east of a Russia’s bases in Latakia. Ma’arat al Nouman, an important crossroads which we described late last week, has recently been hammered by Assad aircraft:
The deploying of the 4th Armored Division is also potentially massively important. This unit is considered one of Assad’s most elite, best equipped, and most loyal units, but it has, for the most part, been held in reserve near Damascus for much of the duration of the war, there to defend the capital against rebel threats and disloyal soldiers. If the 4th Division cannot turn things around in the area, Russian troops and aircraft can easily be used as support. However, if that still does not reverse the tide of battle, Bashar al Assad and the Russian forces which support him could have a fight for survival on their hands earlier than anyone anticipated.
To put things in a wider perspective, let’s look at this map made by the Institute for the Study of War:
The green numbers on this map are known locations of Russian military positions. The fighting in question is perhaps less than 18 kilometers east of #4 , on the edge of rebel-controlled territory. Clearly, this is an area where Assad cannot afford to have the rebels advance.
We’ve also seen a great deal of tension between Assad’s commanders and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps who are, by many accounts, calling all the shots now in Syria. This has led to the execution of certain Syrian commanders who felt that Iran was exerting too much influence over the country, and particularly over the battlefield at this same location.
Again, with few signs that ISIS has won any significant territory or poses a new significant threat to the Assad regime, it’s clear that the rebel advance on Latakia, not any other reason, is the prime motivation for the deployment of Russian jets and soldiers.
— James Miller, Ronak Housaine
Russia’s Interfax news agency reports that they have been told by the Headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet that one of their vessels, PM-56 – a logistics and repair vessel, is to set sail to Tartus in Syria with an “anti-terror group” on board.
The group is made up of soldiers from an independent brigade of Naval Infantry from the Black Sea Fleet. They are officially tasked with defending the vessel during its journey and stay in the Syrian port. However, given that the Kremlin has branded its military intervention, which appears aimed at protecting the Assad regime, as an anti-terrorist campaign against ISIS, the marines’ actual mission may be more aggressive than that presented to reporters.
PM-56 is due to leave harbor in Sevastopol, occupied Crimea, on October 1.
PM-56 in foreground. Photo: A Brichevsky
The vessel’s crew will service and repair the Russian naval task force deployed to Tartus.
— Pierre Vaux
Putin's Diplomatic Strategy – Don't Offer Solutions, Create New Problems – A Disaster for All, Moscow Analysts Say
Staunton, September 28 Vladimir Putin has nothing positive to offer toward the resolution of any of the crises he has helped create, but he has succeeded in getting a meeting today with US President Barack Obama because the Kremlin leader has shown himself capable of causing ever more crises, something others want to prevent if they can.
In the video, journalists film their landing at the Russian airstrip. Out the window they first spot an Antonov 124 cargo airplane on the tarmac, clearly marked with a Russian star and the “России” symbol of the Russian airforce. Next, a group of about ten Russian Sukhoi jets can be seen covered in camouflage netting and, according to TF1, equipped with air-to-ground missiles. A few hundred meters from the control tower, on the runway, Russian attack helicopters appear primed to take off. We believe they are all Mil Mi-24 ‘Hind’ attack helicopters. The numbering on the helicopters, according to the video, indicates that they are Russian military.
EXCLU 20H de TF1 : les premières images des avions russes en Syrie – Monde – MYTF1News
Une caméra de TF1 a filmé le renforcement de la présence militaire russe en Syrie en soutien à Bachar al-Assad sur la base militaire de Lattaquié. Des images à découvrir ce soir dans le 20H de Gilles Bouleau.
Strategic Studies (IISS), notes some additional details about the video:
After yesterday’s speech at the UN wherein Putin made the case that the international community should join the Russian coalition in Syria, the Kremlin’s strategy appears to be to encourage the media, foreign and domestic, to portray Russia as taking the lead in fighting “terrorism,” though as we’ve pointed out the Russian mission in Syria likely has little to do with fighting ISIS.
— James Miller
The Interpreter’s managing editor James Miller has published new analysis in The Daily Beast, examining Putin’s address to the United Nations General Assembly and the Russian strategy in Syria.
According to the Russian President, state sponsors of terrorism are the West’s only partners for fighting terrorism:
Putin's New Axis of Resistance: Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Hezbollah
One year ago, on September 5, 2014, a group of Russian agents, armed with smoke grenades, radio jammers, and guns, crossed eight kilometers into NATO territory, subdued a NATO counterintelligence agent and kidnapped him across the border. Eston Kohver (married, father of four) was then tried in Moscow as a spy and, despite inadequate legal representation, he was given 15 years in prison.
Putin’s strategy—in Georgia, Estonia, in Ukraine, and now in Syria—is transparently simple. He wishes to define himself as the defender of independent nations who dare to defy Western imperialists and their puppet states. In Putin’s rhetoric, anti-authoritarian revolutions are Western proxy wars, “human rights violations” are excuses for Western annexation of sovereign governments, economic agreements designed to modernize economies and defensive pacts voluntarily signed in light of Russian aggression are really daggers pointed at the Russian Motherland. And anyone who defies Russia or its allies is either a “terrorist” or a “Nazi.”
— James Miller