Russia asserts military might in Syria
Russia flexed its muscles again over Syria on Friday, for the first time launching cruise missiles at targets from warships in the Mediterranean Sea days after beginning bombing runs from a base in Iran.
Taken together, the new military moves appeared to be a demonstration that Russia has the ability to strike from virtually all directions in a region where it has been reasserting its power — from Iran, from warships in the Caspian Sea, from its base in the Syrian coastal province of Latakia and now from the Mediterranean.
The United States also asserted its military might in a new way, scrambling its aircraft to protect its forces, and those it is supporting, from Syrian government airstrikes. The Pentagon issued a blunt warning to the Syrian government after its warplanes struck a Kurdish-controlled region where U.S. military personnel were on the ground.
“The Syrian regime would be well advised not to interfere with coalition forces or our partners,” said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
Talks appear to have stalled between Russia and the U.S. on a proposal to carry out joint operations in Syria against militant groups both countries consider terrorists. Russian and Syrian government airstrikes have intensified lately, with no progress on the horizon for a political solution to end the war.
While both Moscow and Washington say they share the goal of defeating the Islamic State group in Syria, they are waging parallel but separate wars against the militant group while simultaneously backing opposite sides in the conflict between Russia’s ally, President Bashar Assad of Syria, and his other opponents, including rebels backed by the U.S.
The Pentagon said it had scrambled aircraft over northeastern Syria in a warning to the government after Syrian warplanes hit areas controlled by Kurdish fighters that are working with the U.S. military to fight the Islamic State. The government and the Kurdish-led forces have had only occasional skirmishes, maintaining a kind of de facto truce, and the government airstrikes came amid their most serious clashes yet.
Foiled coup recalled
Several dozen Russians gathered Friday for a protest reunion to mark the 25th anniversary of a coup attempt that heralded the demise of the Soviet Union, a holiday ignored in official circles because of its revolutionary, anti-establishment nature.
On Aug. 19, 1991, eight hard-line communist leaders seized power from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, declaring him ill. In fact, Gorbachev was under arrest. Thousands of Muscovites took to the streets to protest against the coup and the clout of the powerful security services. The coup was defeated several days later.