The Daily Beast reports: Russian combat operations on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are likely to begin “soon,” three U.S. officials told The Daily Beast. And Russian drone flights to spot targets for potential airstrikes are already underway.
That concession by U.S. officials of growing Russian influence marks a shift from previous statements by officials who said they weren’t sure whether Russia intended to use force in Syria and enter into the country’s long and brutal civil war. There already are early signs that Russia plans to target moderate forces that threaten the Assad regime, not the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which has been the focus of a year-long U.S.-led air campaign.
And yet, the recent Russian moves, which threaten to undermine U.S.-led efforts over the last year, were met with hardly a shrug in some circles in Washington.
“There are not discussions happening here about what this means for U.S. influence on the war against ISIS,” one defense official told The Daily Beast. [Continue reading…]