Russia expands its role in Syria, Greece (NATO member) considers US request to deny airspace
As the effects of the Syrian civil war spill over into Europe and Latin America, Vladimir Putin has publically confirmed that the Russian military is active on the side of Bashar al-Assad against the rebels and IS. Making strange bedfellows with the US and Iran, Russian air strikes have been confirmed as taking place in IS-controlled territory in eastern Syria. Meanwhile, France is preparing to launch air strikes against IS at the same time that Greece is considering the US request to deny Russia airspace and landing rights to launch air strikes from its territory.
Secretary of State John Kerry is warning Russia that its increased involvement risks obstructing the anti-
IS coalition efforts, due to the fact that Russia is conducting its operations without coordination with other forces. However, observers in Moscow speculate that Putin may be trying to curry favor by launching strikes against IS, seeking a reprieve of sanctions that have crippled the Russian economy. For its part, Russia defends its involvement in Syria as one in the same in the fight against terrorism.
Developments on the field may have forced Russia’s hand: reports state that IS and Syrian Army forces are engaged in a battle for control of the Jazal oil field, which is the last remaining facility under Assad’s control. While both sides have claimed victory, the pattern of attacks by IS on Assad strongholds points to a greater boldness on the part of IS to gain momentum as they inch closer to Damascus.
Iran deal after effects continue
As the nuclear deal continues to work its way through Congress, the Iranian leadership is now active in offering peace negotiations with the US and other powers over the Syrian war. While remaining a steadfast supporter of Assad along with Russia, the remarks were offered during a press conference with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, who is currently visiting Tehran in an apparent bid to line up business and trade deals as the sanctions on Iran are lifted in the wake of the nuclear deal.
As previously noted, Russia is now actively involved in the war, while Iran continues its support of Assad behind the scenes and through its Hezbollah proxy. This apparent about-face may be a tactic to divert attention as IS continues its advance and plots to break through to Damascus.
“U.S. naval forces operating in and around the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping lane, are “routinely approached by Iranian warships and aircraft” on a “nearly daily basis,” according to a Pentagon official familiar with operations in the region.”