US voices concern to Russia over latest military moves in Syria

The State Department pointed to media accounts suggesting an "imminent enhanced Russian military build-up" in Syria.

By REUTERS
September 6, 2015 08:21
2 minute read.
 John Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

Secretary of State John Kerry told his Russian counterpart on Saturday the United States was deeply concerned about reports that Moscow was moving toward a major military build-up in Syria widely seen as aimed at bolstering President Bashar Assad.

US authorities have detected "worrisome preparatory steps," including transport of prefabricated housing units for hundreds of people to a Syrian airfield, that could signal that Russia is readying deployment of heavy military assets there, a senior US official told Reuters.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Moscow's exact intentions remained unclear but that Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to leave no doubt of the US position.

The State Department pointed to media accounts suggesting an "imminent enhanced Russian military build-up" in Syria.

"The secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL [Islamic State] coalition operating in Syria," the State Department said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Russia's actions could signal an intensified effort to support Assad, a longtime Russian ally who has seen the area he controls whittled down to a fifth or less of Syria's territory after more than four years of grinding civil war.

Among the latest steps by Russia is the delivery of the temporary housing units and a portable air traffic control station to an airfield near the port city of Latakia, an Assad stronghold, the US official said.



The Russians have also filed military overflight requests with neighboring countries, the US official said.

In addition, Russia has dispatched a military advance team to Syria, the New York Times reported.

It cited unnamed US officials saying that while there was no indication Russia intended to send in significant ground forces, the housing could accommodate as many as 1,000 military advisers and other personnel and enable the airfield to be a supply hub or a launching pad for Russian airstrikes.

But the official told Reuters: "It is inconclusive exactly what the Russians' intent is. We have not seen the actual deployment of military assets or aircraft or forces."

The official said the conclusions were drawn from a "variety of sources." The Los Angeles Times reported US intelligence gathered the evidence from satellite reconnaissance photos.

A US security source also told Reuters there were signs of a Russian move to intervene in Syria beyond its already robust military support role, which have included weapons and training.

The source said the United States will be watching to see whether any increased Russian military role will be used strictly to help Assad or to push back Islamic State, which has seized swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq and is the target of a US-led coalition bombing campaign.

The US official declined to say how Lavrov had responded to Kerry's concerns. The State Department said the two agreed that discussions on the Syrian conflict would continue this month in New York, where the UN General Assembly meets.

Lavrov said last month the United States should cooperate with Assad to fight Islamic State militants.

The United States and Russia have long been at loggerheads over Syria. Russia has backed Assad. The United States advocates a political transition to end his rule.

Related Content

Israel Rescues White Helmets from Syria July 22
July 23, 2018
Israel's Position On Syria Unchanged Following 'White Helmets' Operation

By CHARLES BYBELEZER/THE MEDIA LINE