Rus­sia as­serts mil­i­tary might in Syria

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION & WORLD - ——— The As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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.

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