Russian Marines on the move in Syria, showdown with ISIS expected soon

While the American media focuses in on the Trump vs. Fiorina verbal zinger-fest with laser-like precision, foreign news services are picking up the Yankee slack on reporting of the Russian military build-up in the Middle East. As reported by Great Britain’s The Guardian and Israel’s military-centric new media portal DEBKAfile, both on Sept. 17, 2015, and also The Manila Times on Sept. 16, 2015, Russian Naval Infantry (Marines) have left their coastal bases and heading for a showdown with the Islamic jihadists situated further inland.

The Russians have seemingly overnight beefed up their Jableh airbase in the coastal province of Latakia from essentially a dirt airstrip into an advanced military base capable of housing 1,500 Russian Marines. Citing multiple sources here, the Pentagon has verified as of 48 hours ago that a total of 15 of the massive Russian Antonov-124 Condor flights have touched down at Jableh, reflecting a steady stream of military cargo flooding into the Middle Eastern nation.

Between the Condor cargo aircraft and two amphibious assault ships at their naval base at Tartus, the Russians have so far unloaded at least a half-dozen third-generation T-90 main battle tanks; 15 fresh artillery pieces; 35 armored personnel carriers, similar to the U.S. Army’s Bradley fighting vehicles; and an yet to be released number of additional Russian Marines. As it turns out, the boys from Mother Russia are on a high tech road trip to pick a fight with the ISIS terrorist organization.

As reported by the DEBKAfile, an unspecified number of R-166-0.5 (ultra) high-frequency signals (HF/VHF) vehicles have been spotted on Highway 4, which links Latakia province to the ISIS-held interior of the war-ravaged country. Often referred to as “mobile war rooms” by the Israeli and Western armies, a “large convoy” of the R-166-0.5 command and control vehicles were accompanied by a yet to be released number of BTR-82 armored personnel carriers (APC) chock full of Russian Marines. The R-166-0.5 enables communication with forces located on battlefields as far as 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) distant using their high frequency and ultra-high frequency signals.

Meanwhile, The Guardian notes that a convoy of Russian APCs and up-armored trucks has left Jableh heading southeast. According to the British newspaper’s sources, this particular Russian motorized force is heading straight for the government-held city of Hama. Syrian National Army troops loyal to President Bashir al-Assad have a tentative hold on the city against militant Islamists. Much like the WWII Battle of Stalingrad, control of Hama see-saws between forces in battles where gains and losses are measured by the city block.

While Russians have never officially admitted to committing ground combat forces being in-country specifically for an offensive military mission, President Vladimir Putin may have let the proverbial cat out of the bag. Speaking at a security summit of former Soviet states being held in Tajikistan, Putin plainly stated his nation is supporting the Assad regime against “terrorist aggression.”

With Assad being a long time ally to Moscow, Putin verified his troops are in Syria, but claiming he’s working in conjunction with Assad’s army. “We provide and will continue to provide the necessary military technology assistance and urge other nations to join in,” Putin stated. “It’s obvious that without the Syrian authorities and the military playing an active role, without the Syrian army fighting Islamic State on the ground, it’s impossible to drive terrorists from this country and from the region as a whole.”