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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 8, 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
Are The Syrian Rebels Beating Assad Despite Russia's Help?

Russian air and rocket strikes have been intimidating and devastating to civilians caught in the destruction. Several civilian activists in Syria whom this author has spoken to relayed the same thing -- despite seeing nearly constant explosions over the last 4 years, these were the biggest and scariest yet. The Syrian regime has long since switched to using "barrel bombs," crude explosive "dumb fire" devices with nearly no accuracy or predictability that are recklessly dropped on civilians and militants alike. While the threat of death is a constant in areas which are bombed with these crude devices, Russia's powerful explosives have turned a lot of heads.

Many civilians, such as Raed Fares, a key activist in Kafranbel, have expressed fear that the local rebels, who have protected them from government forces as well as radicals like ISIS, could be defeated -- not to mention that civilians are being killed in large numbers in the process.

But we are now two days into a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) ground offensive in northern Hama province, backed by Russian jets, Smerch rocket strikes, and possibly helicopters. Signs suggest that at the very least SAA progress is slow and costly, and it may actually be possible that the rebels have dealt the Assad regime a heavy defeat.

Yesterday multiple videos and reports showed SAA tanks destroyed or captured by rebel forces. OW anti-tank missiles, missiles which were provided to certain vetted rebel groups them by the US, appeared to play a major role. Today there are more signs of SAA armor being destroyed by rebels in northwest Hama province. The Micro-blogger Markito is tracking some of these battles. Here are a few of the claims:

We cannot verify the numbers from Ahrar al Sham, but what we can say is that many videos show TOW anti-tank missiles destroying SAA vehicles, and the SAA has not made any significant advances.

What we also know is that it was a series of defeats in Idlib and Hama that preceded Russia's intervention in Syria. The Assad regime may simply be outmatched, despite getting a significant boost from Russian firepower.

-- 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 Reportedly Crash In Iran Before Striking Targets In Syria

CNN reports that a number of Russian cruise missiles fired from the Caspian Sea at Syria have instead crashed in Iran, according to US officials:

Monitoring by U.S. military and intelligence assets has concluded that at least four missiles crashed as they flew over Iran. One official said there may be casualties, but another official said this is not yet known.

It's unclear where in Iran the missiles landed. The Russian ships have been positioned in the south Caspian Sea, meaning the likely flight path for missiles into Syria would cross over both Iran and Iraq.

The Russians have been firing a relatively new cruise missile called "Kaliber," using it for the first time in combat.

Iran's semi-official FARS news agency, however, said that neither Russian nor Iranian authorities have confirmed the U.S. officials' information at this point.

No official confirmation of this yet from either Russia or Iran, but there is a sign that the report may be credible:


We'll continue to monitor this claim.

-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Reports That ISIS Shot Down A Helicopter Near Palmyra

We've been tracking reports of the possible downing of a helicopter in Kafr Naboudah, on the border of Hama and Idlib provinces. As we've demonstrated below, we have no clear evidence that any helicopter was shot down there. ISIS is not present in this region.

However, far away, near Palmyra, there are additional reports that a helicopter has been shot down by ISIS. The Local Coordination Committees of Syria reports:

‪#‎Homs‬ ‪#‎Palmyra‬ ISIS shoots down a helicopter near @Shaer region, and it was reported that the pilot was captured

We have not confirmed this news, either, and unfortunately news out of Palmyra is spottier due to its location in the middle of a dessert in the center of the war torn country. There are multiple similar reports on various social media networks, but no pictures or videos have yet emerged.

However, Palmyra's distance from Latakia, site of Russia's air bases, make it unlikely that this is a Russian helicopter. If any helicopter was shot down in Palmyra it was likely one that belongs to the Syrian regime.

-- James Miller


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Does This Video Show A Russian Helicopter Shot Down In Syria?
We've been tracking reports that at least one Russian helicopter has been shot down today in Syria (see previous updates). Not there is this:

The question is, has Russia already suffered those casualties.

Another video reportedly shows the moment a Russian helicopter is shot down in Kafr Naboudah, Hama province.

We're not convinced that any helicopter is shot down, however. This video may show the opposite angle of the last video in our previous update. The confusion may be that these helicopters, which may be Russian or may be Syrian, make low-flying evasive actions while smoke is rising from their explosive payloads which they have just unleashed. While it looks like a helicopter crashes, it may have just flown below the horizon.

There is no confirmation that a helicopter of any kind, never mind a Russian one, has been shot down today.

This video was taken in nearby Morek, 18 kilometers southeast of Kafr Naboudah and on the front lines of rebel control in Hama province. One thing that is clear, helicopters, whether Russian or Syrian, are playing a major role in today's airstrikes, perhaps a sign that higher-altitude jet strikes have not dislodged rebels in this area.

Rebel forces beat back Assad's offensive yesterday, despite Russia's air support. If Russia is losing helicopters, that may be more evidence that the anti-Assad rebels are stronger than many have given them credit for in this area.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Reports That Russian Helicopter Shot Down In Syria -- Videos

As we've been reporting, there are many reports at the moment that Russian helicopters have been shot down in Syria. Let's take a look at the latest.


This video reportedly shows a low-flying Russian helicopter being fired at in the Kurd Mountains in northwest Syria. We can't confirm it nor can we confirm who operates this helicopter, but it Syrian or Russian helicopters are flying this low they are clearly vulnerable to rebel guns and anti-aircraft missiles, as we've seen Syrian rebels shoot down Assad aircraft before:
Then there's this video -- reportedly showing the smoke which is a result of a downed helicopter in Kafr Naboudeh, on the front lines of fighting and an area which we believe has been hit today by Russian forces. We are more confident in the authenticity of this video though cannot confirm the claim:
Other activists and videos claim to show the downing of a helicopter here:
This video is interesting, as it reportedly shows helicopters attacking the town today. The men on the radio in the foreground may be rebel fighters, attempting to target the helicopters which appear to fire flares and make evasive maneuvers to avoid being shot down. They also appear to launch their payloads, causing considerable damage down below. The video is uploaded by the Shaam News Network which is highly reliable.

It's possible that a helicopter was shot down. It's also possible that smoke from the air strikes on the town and the evasive action of the helicopters have just given the impression that a helicopter has been show down.

We'll continue to monitor these claims.

-- James Miller

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