Russian Middle East Partial Withdrawal Emboldening Islamist Forces, Kremlin Blames US
Rebel Success Could Cause East/West Conflict
It seems the Russian military partial withdrawn from the Syrian theater has emboldened Islamist forces. The Russian air base at Hmeimim near Latakia was attacked by mortar fire in the last week which killed at least two Russian servicemen and injured many others. Russian media reported over 7 Russian aircraft were destroyed. The Kremlin denied the destruction of military planes.
Today, BBC reported that Hmeimim had been attacked by drones but the primitive aircraft were shot down before any damage was done. “The attempt to bomb the Hmeimim base near the north-western city of Latakia on Saturday was thwarted when unmanned aircraft were shot down, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.”
“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring group, said the base was targeted by drones belonging to an “Islamist faction” operating in the area,” added BBC.
The Russian website Lenta reported the drones were basic in design. “The UAVs featured an engine taped to a wooden frame, which carried two “home-made mines”.
In an ominous development, Russia has also made allegations the United States military is harboring and training ISIS fighters under a new name, in an effort to destabilize the Levant.
“They are in reality being trained there,” The chief of the Russian General Staff General Valery Gerasimov said, saying there were also a large number of militants and former Islamic State fighters at Shadadi, where he said there was also a U.S. base, reported Reuters.
“They are practically Islamic State,” he said. “But after they are worked with, they change their spots and take on another name. Their task is to destabilize the situation.”
The Kremlin previously warned that if the attacks can be traced to US-supported forces they would respond in kind. It seems the vacuum created by the Russian partial withdrawal could cause instability and a chance of mistaken conflict between East and West.
The Russian Ministry of Defense is keen to continue the narrative that the conflict in Syria is mostly over and the Islamic State has for all intents and purposes been defeated. “Peaceful settlement of the conflict is underway on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic…Situation in the de-escalation zones is assessed as stable,” stated a Briefing by Russian Centre for Reconciliation (January 6, 2018).