Russia Launches Airstrikes Against ISIS Inside Syria: Reports

by Jon Queally –

After receiving authorization from Parliament, and just days after UN speech by Vladimir Putin, news outlets report that Russia’s air campaign inside Syria has begun

russian fighter jets

Just hours after the Upper House of the Russian Parliament on Wednesday gave President Vladimir Putin the permission he sought to use the nation’s air force to conduct missions against the Islamic State targets inside Syria, news outlets are reporting that the first Russian airstrikes inside Syria may have now taken place.

Both the New York Times and CNN, citing anonymous U.S. officials who were not authorized to speak with the press, report that strikes have been carried out. The Times reports Russian warplanes dropped bombs near the central city of Hom, though further details were not provided.

Wednesday’s vote authorizing the strikes came just two days after Putin spoke to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City where he also held a 90-meeting meeting with U.S. President Obama in which the main topic was the ongoing civil war in Syria and how the two world leaders might find a way to get past their differences and help find a possible solution to the crisis which has embroiled the Middle East.

Whereas the U.S. Congress has yet to formally authorize the ongoing U.S. military actions in both Syria and Iraq, Obama has claimed authority to conduct airstrikes in those countries based on previous authorizations of military force (AUMFs) granted in the wake of 9/11 to fight Al-Qaeda. While at the UN, Putin called for an international coaliton to come together under the auspices of a new UN Security Council resolution which would give legal sanction to a joint military campaign against ISIS militants.

In comments on Wednesday, Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, said that Russia’s plans at the moment would only include airstrikes, not ground forces engaged in combat inside Syria.

“You all know well that in the territory of Syria and Iraq … a number of countries are carrying out bombing strikes, including the United States,” Ivanov told reporters. “These actions do not conform with international law. To be legal they should be supported either by a resolution of the UN security council, or be backed by a request from the country where the raids are taking place.” What would make Russia’s action legitimate, explained Ivanov, is that the elected president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, has asked for and now welcomes this Russian assistance.

Even as policy experts continue to throw up warnings that there is no military solution to the civil war in Syria and that the introduction of more weapons, additional airstrikes, and new soldiers will only increase the suffering of civilian populations, the main sticking point between the U.S. and Russia remains whether  Assad stays or goes as possible attempts at a diplomatic settlement form. Putin has made it clear that as the legitimate leader of Syria—and given the chaos that ensued in both Libya and Iraq after their governments were toppled by force—it would be short-sighted and  irresponsible to exclude Assad from negotiations while ISIS and other radical factions stand at the ready to fill the vacuum.

Though the U.S. has maintained an active program to support military factions opposed to Assad, recent statements by both President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have appeared to soften their strict position on regime change in Syria.


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Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams