On Thursday evening, we detailed a Reuters report which suggested that the influx of Russian technical and logistical support to Bashar al-Assad’s depleted army at Latakia might have breathed new life into the regime as it seeks to rout Islamic State and a whole host of other armed groups fighting for control of Syria. “Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Thursday Russia had provided new weapons and trained Syrian troops how to use them,” Reuters said, before describing what certainly sounds like an invigorated air campaign against the de facto ISIS capital at Raqqa.
Importantly, al-Moualem also indicated that Syria would be willing to make an official request for Russian combat troops “if needed.”
Now clearly, it seems likely that Russian troops have already joined the battle and indeed, when the bullets start flying, the distinction between “logistical” support and “combat” support quickly becomes blurred, but through all the sabre rattling and back-and-forth banter between Kerry and Lavrov, both sides are still keen to at least pay lip service to the unwritten rules of international diplomacy which is why before Russia can admit that its troops are actually on the ground to fight, they’ll be a charade where Syria will pretend to be raising the issue with the Kremlin for the first time at which point the Kremlin will take a few days to “consider” things. As of Friday, it appears as though that process has begun.
Russia said it’s willing to consider sending troops into combat operations in Syria if President Bashar al-Assad’s government requests assistance. Continue reading »