Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Russia begins new air offensive in Syria using their aircraft carrier in combat for the first time.

Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. Russian Defense Ministry.

Russia has begun a new air offensive against rebels and terrorists in Syria. New York Times. Russia claims the airstrikes will target ISIS and the recently renamed al-Nusra Front in Idlib and Homs provinces. The operation marks the first time that Russia has ever used carrier based forces in a combat role. Other Russian ships and ground based launchers are firing cruise missiles against targets in Syria as well. The Russian deployment hasn't gone off without a hitch though, they have already lost one MIG-29, which crashed due to a "technical failure". The pilot was able to eject safely. 

My Comment:
Russia seems to be emboldened right now and I am guessing it has something to do with the election of Donald Trump. Trump has always been in favor of letting Russia fight the terrorists and rebels in Syria, and it seems that he may have given the Russians his blessing for these airstrikes. He certainly wants the war in Syria to end. 

It seems that the main targets of these strikes are not ISIS, but al-Qaeda's former affiliate, al-Nusra. Though they changed their name and have tried to re-brand themselves, they are still a brutal terrorist organization who controls large swaths of Syrian territory. By targeting them Russia is doing the world a great service. 

Of course, the non-Jihadist rebels are being targeted as well. I also view this as a positive development. These rebels are hardly saints and even the secular ones have committed war crimes. And even the ones who haven't, have thrown their lot in with al-Nusra. As far as I am concerned that is a death sentence. 

There are limits of what air power can do though. These airstrikes and missile strikes will not break the will of the rebels alone. For that they need ground forces, and the Syrians seem like they are almost depleted. They also seem to have stopped their other offensive operations to focus entirely on Aleppo. Aleppo is clearly the key to the war and if it finally falls then the war is essentially won. 

The rebels are in dire straights though in Aleppo. They have been cut off from their supply lines and they will eventually run out of arms, medicine and weapons. Given that nobody is going to be deploying forces to protect them, and the peace process is dead, they are essentially doomed. They are only continuing the fight because they have no other choice. 

These Russian airstrikes will further demoralize and damage the rebels in Aleppo. I am guessing that these attacks are either going to be targeted strikes on leadership and supply depots or they are going to be close airstrikes in support of Syrian fighters. The first option is more likely because the second option needs forward air controllers on the ground to ensure that only the enemy gets hit. 

It is also important to note that this is the first time that the Russians have ever used one of their aircraft carriers in a combat operations. The Admiral Kuznetsoy may be a rust bucket of a carrier and pretty out of date, but it's still a powerful ship and it's about time the Russians have used it in some role. They have already lost one plane due to a supposed technical problem, but that is par for the course unfortunately. Either way, the Russians are getting critical real world experience in how to use carriers in war. In the past they only had war simulations and hypothetical's. 

It almost seems like the Syrian Civil War is being used by Russia as a testing ground for all of their weapons systems. Not only have they deployed their aircraft carrier, they are also testing out their anti-aircraft systems and other weapons. Russians have had quite a bit of combat experience in Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine, but they haven't had many chances to test their naval weapons. 

My hope is that the Russian involvement won't last much longer. I am hoping that the Syrian Civil War will largely end when Aleppo falls, so the sooner that happens the better. If it does fall soon, the entire issue will be moot because then the only people left in Syria to fight will be ISIS and al-Nusra, two groups that everyone wants to see fail. And with a new American president, we will be working with the Russians to defeat both groups... 

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