Top NATO General: Russians Starting to Build Air Defense Bubble over Syria – Thomas Gibbons-Neff
While Russia’s stated goal in moving into Syria is to fight the Islamic State, NATO’s top commander believes Russia’s new presence includes the first pieces of an intricate layer of defensive systems deployed to hinder U.S. and coalition operations in the region. ”As we see the very capable air defense [systems] beginning to show up in Syria, we’re a little worried about another A2/AD bubble being created in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Gen. Philip M. Breedlove on Monday. A2/AD stands for anti-access/area denial.
Breedlove suggested that Russia’s presence in Syria had little to do with fighting the Islamic State and a lot to do with propping up Syrian President Assad. ”These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about [the Islamic State], they’re about something else,” said Breedlove. (Washington Post)
Saudi Arabia Rules Out Cooperation with Russia in Syria – Jay Solomon, Carol E. Lee and Farnaz Fassihi
Saudi Arabia and other leading Arab states ruled out any cooperation with an emerging Russian military alliance operating inside Syria and vowed to dial up their support for rebels seeking to overthrow Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad. Top officials from Arab states said it was impossible for them to support any coalition that doesn’t seek to remove Assad, whose forces are accused of killing tens of thousands of civilians.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said Tuesday that Russian President Putin’s offer to other Middle East countries to join his coalition was a ”non-starter.” While President Obama said he was prepared to cooperate with Russia and Iran in Syria, al-Jubeir said, ”Iran is part of the problem and can’t be part of the solution.”
U.S. officials Tuesday publicly proposed a plan that would enlist Russia and Iran in easing Assad out of power, while allowing him to remain for an agreed-on period. But it was unclear whether the U.S. and its allies have sufficient leverage to impose such a vision for the outcome of the conflict. (Wall Street Journal)
Ya’alon: We Made It Clear to Russia that Israel Will Continue to Act in Syria to Protect Its Interests – Yaakov Lappin
Israel has made it clear to Russia that it will continue to act in Syria to protect its interests when necessary, and will not coordinate with Moscow on activities such as retaliating for Syrian cross-border fire, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday.
”Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear to President Putin that we are not involved in who will control Syria. Assad or not Assad, we are not entering that discussion at all. But we have interests, and when they are threatened we act, and we will continue to act….Those who try to violate our sovereignty – we will strike them, and those who try to transfer advanced weapons to terror elements, with an emphasis on Hizbullah, we will strike them, and those who try to transfer chemical weapons to terror elements, we will strike them….I suggest that no one tests us.” (Jerusalem Post)
Russia Buildup Seen as Fanning Flames in Syria – Helene Cooper and Michael R. Gordon
Russia’s military buildup in Syria will probably prolong the life of the government of President Assad, Pentagon officials and foreign policy experts say, but is unlikely to be a major factor in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State, and could further inflame – and lengthen – the conflict. Reconnaissance flights by Russian drones in the last week have all been over areas controlled by opponents of Assad while avoiding territory controlled by the Islamic State.
”The government only controls 20% of its territory, has a huge manpower shortage and has stoked a sectarian war with a majority Sunni population,” said Andrew J. Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ”Those are hard odds to overcome. The Russians can use their deployments to prop up the government for now. But over the long term, it will suck Russia into the quagmire.” (New York Times)
What Putin’s Syrian Strategy Means for Israel – Ron Ben-Yishai
Russian President Putin has exploited Syrian President Assad’s and the Iranians’ distress to make himself a major player in the Middle East, just as U.S. influence in the region is waning. Meanwhile, Iran is working to turn Hizbullah into an independent producer of weapons and munitions so that they may prevent Israeli bombings of weapons convoys making their way through Syria. It’s reasonable to assume that the Iranians are doing this with approval from the Russians.
In the past few weeks, Russia has given the Syrian military sophisticated and accurate arms to replace its outdated and ineffective equipment. Putin isn’t going to send soldiers to fight ISIS on the ground, but he will supply Assad with weapons, and the Iranians will pay him for it (after the economic sanctions are removed). The Iranians will also probably soon become the Russian arms industry’s number one client. Russia will probably serve as a stabilizing force in Syria, but it will legitimize an Iranian entrance into the country. (Ynet News)