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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Russia's latest bombing sorties require closer evaluation.

Link: Russia bombs 448 ISIS targets in Syria.

In the last three days, the Russia Air Force in Syria has conducted 137 bombing sorties against 448 ISIS targets.  This latest uptick in the Russian bombing campaign in Syria comes as ISIS continues to claim responsibility for the October 31 destruction of a Russian passenger airliner over the Sinai.  It is beginning to appear likely that ISIS is behind the tragedy, with the recent high-intensity Russian bombing sorties considered to be a response.  Russia claims that the bombing raids have targeted ISIS' infrastructure, in particular destroying a munitions warehouse near Damascus which hosted makeshift unguided missiles.  The attacks have also resulted in numerous civilian casualties, with multiple claims that non-military targets were bombed.  As ISIS and Russia become more familiar dealing with each other as battlefield opponents, and civilian targets on both sides become more frequent, many more episodes of retaliation-type attacks can be expected.  If ISIS was able to plan and execute the destruction of the Russian airliner in question, it will signify an expansion of ISIS' ability to reach beyond the battlefield and attack non-combatants outside of the Middle East.  If Russia continues to conduct its air sorties with little concern for civilian casualties, ISIS have less trouble recruiting supporters and soldiers from the local population.  And if another airliner affiliated with Russia or one of the members of its budding "coalition" becomes victim of ISIS sabotage, expect the Arab community to be less than sympathetic.  After all, its their families who are being indiscriminately blown to pieces and their farms and homes that are being destroyed by Russian bombs.

One development that warrants closer review is Russia's claim to have targeted multiple ISIS infrastructure locations and munitions factories.  When Russia entered the Syrian conflict, one of its priority concerns should have been the lack of intelligence sources.  On the other hand, the United States, with its sponsorship of ISIS opposition groups and its historic close ties to Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and the Kurds, must have a well-developed network of sources providing timely intelligence.  Its true that Russia has always been very close to the Assad regime, but the intelligence that is most needed, information on ISIS and its movements, is in no way accessible to elements of the Assad regime.  Be that as it may, Russia has managed to locate many important ISIS targets.  The question is, if the United States has a well-developed network for collected intelligence in Syria, then why did those ISIS targets exist to be the recipients of Russian bombing sorties? Why hasn't the U.S.-led air coalition already destroyed those facilities and munitions warehouses?          

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