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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
October 7, 2015

Publication: Putin in Syria
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
43 People, Including 5 Women & 4 Children, Reportedly Killed Today In Syria

Each day the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) attempt to verify the number of people killed each day in Syria. Here is today's tally:

By the end of Wednesday, October 07, 2015, LCC has documented the fall of 43 martyrs including 5 women, 4 children and a martyr under torture.

12 martyrs in ‪#‎Idlib‬ most of them passed away by Russian warplanes shelling on ‪#‎Maasran‬, 10 martyrs in ‪#‎Hama‬ most of them passed away during clashes with Assad's forces in the northern suburb, 7 martyrs in ‪#‎Aleppo‬, 7 in ‪#‎Daraa‬, 3 in ‪#‎Qunaitra‬, 2 in ‪#‎Damascus_and_its_Suburbs‬ and 1 in ‪#‎Latakia‬.

The LCC is an activist group, but a group which has a proven track record for reliability. Over the last four and a half years, Western journalists have documented the verification methodology used by the LCC to confirm, to the best of their ability, news in each city and town across the region.

For more information on reliable (and unreliable) sources in Syria, read our entry here:

Targets hit today include a hospital in Kafranbel, Idlib province, a town known for its strong secular and non-sectarian protest movement, and an area which is nearly 100 of kilometers from the nearest ISIS stronghold:
-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Cruise Missiles In Syria More About Politics Than Terrorists

As we've been reporting, Russia has released video which it says shows Russian cruise missiles attack against targets in Syria. As we've also been reporting, both areas in Al Raqqah and in Idlib province were targeted. While the targets in Al Raqqah may or may not have been ISIS fighters, the targets in Idlib province certainly were not.

Joseph Dempsey, research analyst for IISS, confirms our analysis:


The areas in Idlib province are far from the Caspian Sea, but are in fact very close to Russian ground, air, and sea forces in the Latakia region and the Mediterranean Sea.

So why would Russia fire extremely expensive cruise missiles just to hit targets they can destroy with significantly less expensive bombs, rockets, and artillery?

Politics. The polished video of Russian ships firing cruise missiles into Syria is certainly designed to send several messages. The first, that Russia is strong, a modern military capable of defeating its enemies. Both domestic and foreign audiences are the intended target here. Furthermore, Russian cruise missile strikes against anti-Assad rebels and activists whom the US nominally supports is certainly designed to curb US efforts to recruit more rebel forces to join its cause.

The second is that Russia is taking the initiative to defeat terrorism in Syria (even though this is largely a myth). The US and its allies oppose Russia's mission in Syria. The new Russian government talking point, then, is that the Russian government cares more about defeating terrorism than the "West," a message that's echoed through Kremlin propaganda for some time.

The third -- those missiles had to fly over both Iran and Iraq in order to reach Syria. The Iraqi government must have approved this flight plan, and this makes the US look even weaker than it already looks in this situation.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Regime Tanks Attack US-Armed Free Syrian Army Units In Hama, Supported By Russian Air Force

The Assad regime has launched an offensive in the Hama province against Free Syrian Army (FSA) units north of the regional capital in an apparent attempt to encircle a rebel salient. 

The Russian Air Force has been pounding this area for a week now and today saw MLRS strikes by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

Video footage, uploaded by the 13th Brigade of the FSA, shows SAA tanks advancing northwest from Taybat al-Imam towards the rebel-held village of Khirbat Masasinah. 

The fighters engage the tanks with TOW missiles, destroying at least two: 

We can verify the location of this footage by comparing the view of the water tower in the second video with this Panoramio photo of Taybat al-Imam:

59973535.jpg

Google Earth images show numerous construction sites on the towns fringes, as seen in the footage. 

Another video from the 13th Brigade, filmed in the same area, shows two Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships firing flares as they manoeuvre over the town:

The video description says that they are Russian helicopters but we cannot verify this as such.

However Russian Hind helicopters have indeed been deployed to the Hmeemeem/Bassel al-Assad airbase near Latakia.


Just today, Gazdiev filed a report for Russia's state-owned RT propaganda channel, saying that Hinds were flying out of the air base on patrol to defend possible against "terrorist attacks."
This morning, Hinds were filmed flying over regime-held Morek, to the north-east of Taybat al-Imam:
Syrian journalist Hadi Alabdallah also reported that Russian Hinds were in action today:
Another of Alabdallah's tweets shows a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft overhead:
FSA units destroyed SAA tanks in the Morek area too:

Alabdallah even claims that Russian soldiers were killed by FSA fighters:


However we are treating this claim with skepticism until there is any evidence to verify it.

However it certainly appears that Russian air assets are working in close coordination with the regime. Russia is now providing close air support for the SAA offensive, rather than just supporting with air strikes on strategic targets.

Meanwhile, to the north-west of Kafr Zita, another FSA-affiliated brigade, Suqor al-Ghab, destroyed a SAA tank in Kafr Nabudah: 

Russian air strikes on the town were reported earlier today.

With fighting near Kafr Nabudah, Morek and Khirbat Masasinah, it appears that the regime is attempting to encircle the rebels.

151007-kafr.png

Kafr Nabudah appears above the leftmost arrow in the tweet below explaining the front line:

It is important to note here that both Suqor al-Ghab and the 13th Brigade are using US-supplied TOW missiles, which brings us to the point that the Syrian offensive, supported by Russian air strikes, and possibly even close air support from helicopters, is attacking not ISIS, but US-backed opposition groups.

-- Pierre Vaux and Ronak Housaine

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Turkey Says Missile Systems In Syria Locking Onto Their Jets
The Turkish government is alarmed that anti-aircraft missile systems in Syria are locking onto their jets:

Over the weekend, Russian jets entered Turkish airspace on two occasions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Russia's actions in Turkey were straining the relationship between the two countries and could have consequences.
-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian MOD Video Of Cruise Missile Strikes Indicates Rebel-Held Areas Were Targeted
The Russian Ministry of Defence has released a video presentation on their long-range cruise missile strikes last night.

We are uncertain how much of the footage is archived demonstrative material and how much is from the actual launches. 

The video also includes several glimpses of the missiles purported flight paths, taking them over Iran and Iraq before entering Syrian territory.

151007-caspian-flightpath.png

One of the two groups of missiles are aimed, according to the video, towards a target just south-east of Raqqa, in ISIS-held territory:

151007-raqqa.png

However the other group of missiles heads much further west, striking targets well outside ISIS-held territory.

According to this map from the video, the cruise missiles struck targets west of Aleppo and near Idlib and Maarrat al-Nouman:

151007-west-map.png

-- Pierre Vaux

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