Air Power Over Syria Faced With Proxy War Risk
An often forgotten issue that is relevant to the Syrian Civil War is the fact that the conflict has transformed into a nearly full-scale proxy war. The term ‘proxy war’ is most typical of the ongoing conflict in Syria. The conflict not only involves Syria’s neighbours and the regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also major Western powers – France, the UK and the US – and numerous fighters from more than 25 countries. Moscow has warned Washington of the risk of a ‘proxy war’ in the Middle East after the US said it would send Special Forces to Syria. After US warplanes have started intercepting Russian aircraft over Syria at the beginning of the campaign, there are now signs that the US is now turning the Russian effort to save Syria from greater suffering to a ‘proxy war’ of the super powers. Zbigniew Brzeziński, a former Carter Administration national security adviser, said: “Russia launched air attacks at Syrian elements that are sponsored, trained, and equipped by the Americans, inflicting damage and causing casualties”, and asked Washington to convey to Moscow “the demand that it ceases and desists from military actions that directly affect American assets.”
Where key players stand on Assad or not, is the premier question when assessing recent month’s airstrikes in Syria. Russia, which has returned to the Middle East through a direct military intervention in Syria, was literally invited by the Assad regime to put down rebellions with the help of air power. However, as shown in recent months, Russia has also ‘tripped’ into other regional players’ spheres of influence in the region, including those of Turkey, the Gulf countries, the Kurds, Jordan, and Israel.
Moscow’s military intervention in the Syrian Civil War began on 30 September 2015, following a formal request by the Syrian government. The activities consisted of airstrikes against militant groups opposed to the Assad regime primarily in the northwestern part of the country. Russia, which is the only foreign power that has its military assets openly deployed in the country, always claims the attacks were against Islamic State (IS) positions. However, according to reports, the Russian Air Force’s airstrikes may have targeted positions held by the Army of Conquest coalition, including the Saudi/Turkish-backed al-Nusra Front and the Salafi-Jihadi coalition.
Meanwhile, Moscow has stepped up its military presence in Syria, deploying 12 Su-25 ground-attack aircraft; 12 Su-24 interdiction aircraft; six Su-34 fighter-bombers; four Su-30 multirole combat aircraft; and 15 helicopters (including Mi-24 attack helicopters), plus a yet unspecified number of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance purposes. On 1 October, the Russian Defence Ministry stated it had deployed over 50 planes.
Schematic representation showing the major players backing each side in the Syrian Civil War.
(Map: Courtesy of Business Insider)
|The Pentagon released the imagery of a compound near Ar Raqqah attacked by US Air Force F-22 RAPTOR stealth fighters before and after the raid conducted by the aircraft.|
(Photo: Courtesy of Department of Defense)