Russia launched first air strikes against ISIS in Syria


Russia has conducted its first airstrike in Syria, near the city of Homs, a senior U.S. official confirmed. The Russians told the United States that they should not fly U.S. warplanes in Syria, but gave no geographical information about where they planned to strike. The senior official said U.S. missions are continuing as normal.

The upper house of the Russian parliament has given President Vladimir Putin approval to use the Russian air force in Syria, according to state media. The vote came after a request by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for military assistance in fighting ISIS, Ivanov said.

Four Russian Su-34 Fullback fighter jets are now at the Latakia air base in Syria, and more than 600 Russian troops are in place. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters Tuesday that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter directed his staff to "open lines of communication with Russia on de-confliction."

The timing of these discussions is to be worked out in the coming days. The purpose of the discussions is "to ensure the safety of coalition air crews," he said. Cook added that the two nations have common ground when it comes to fighting ISIS, also known as ISIL, with Carter making clear that "the goal should be to take the fight to ISIL and not to defend the Assad regime."

Russia continues to position itself to potentially launch airstrikes in Syria, but its movements suggest that its targets are something other than ISIS, according to U.S. officials.

"We see some very sophisticated air defenses going into those airfields. We see some very sophisticated air-to-air aircraft going into these airfields. I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require SA-15s or SA-22s (Russian missiles). I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require sophisticated air-to-air capabilities," Gen. Phillip Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander, said on Monday.

"I'm looking at the capabilities and the capacities that are being created and I determine from that what might be their intent. These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about ISIL. They're about something else," he concluded.

Separately, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work confirmed to the Senate on Tuesday that Russia has violated a missile treaty with the United States but indicated that the administration didn't plan to take any action at present.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, asked Work at a hearing whether he thought the Russians had breached the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty governing the elimination of medium-range missiles.

"We believe very strongly that they did," he responded. But he also said, "This is still in discussions and we have not decided on any particular action at this point," noting that the United States has been in contact with the Russians over the issue.

Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama were confrontational toward each other in their morning speeches, then met to discuss Syria and Ukraine later in the day. "We have clarity on their objectives," one senior administration official said after the meeting. "Their objectives are to go after ISIL and to support the government."




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