The Wall Street Journal reports: Russia and Iran have stepped up coordination inside Syria as they move to safeguard President Bashar al-Assad’s control over his coastal stronghold, according to officials in the U.S. and Middle East, creating a new complication for Washington’s diplomatic goals.
Senior Russian and Iranian diplomats, generals and strategists have held a string of high-level talks in Moscow in recent months to discuss Mr. Assad’s defense and the Kremlin’s military buildup in Syria, according to these officials.
The buildup is continuing: On Monday, U.S. defense officials said Russian surveillance drones have started flying missions over Syria, and Moscow has sent two dozen more fighter jets to Syria. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Rebels who have inflicted big losses on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad say Russia’s intervention in support of its ally will only lead to an escalation of the war and may encourage the rebels’ Gulf Arab backers to pour in more military aid.
Russia’s deployment is prompting a reassessment of the conflict among insurgents whose advances in western Syria in recent months may have been the catalyst for Russia’s decision. U.S. officials say Russian forces are already arriving.
Rebels interviewed by Reuters say they have already encountered stronger government resistance in those areas – notably the coastal heartland of Assad’s Alawite sect – and now predict an even tougher war with Russian involvement.
Some see an opportunity in the Russian deployment, predicting more military aid from states such as Saudi Arabia. That signals one of the risks of Russian involvement: a spiral of deepening foreign interference in a conflict already complicated by a regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. [Continue reading…]