No less than 15 Russian An-124 Condor cargo flights have landed in Syria in recent days. This is in addition to a steady stream of Russian cargo ships arriving at Syrian shores, some of which dropped off T-90 main battle tanks, artillery pieces and dozens of armored personnel carriers.
Unlike in the past, these weapons are clearly not intended for Al Assad’s forces. Instead they will be used by Russian soldiers, and preparation for these soldiers appears to be underway. Modular living quarters for an estimated 1500 individuals are being erected at what appears to be Russia’s forward air base in the making located about 15 miles south of the Syrian port city of Latakia. There are already 200 Russian Marine commandos providing force protection for the buildup at the base and new aprons, taxiways, helipads and a new control tower have recently been constructed at the site.
When it comes to armor, reports state specifically that six T-90s. 12 artillery pieces and around 35 armored personnel carriers have arrived by ship at Russia’s strategic port in Tartus. This still does not firmly signal an offensive fighting force, but if more armor continues to arrive, Russia’s intentions to back the Assad regime by taking on its opponents with their own forces will be certain.
And this very well could be the case as there appears to be no end in sight to the buildup, with more ships said to be on the way and cargo flights landing in Syria twice a day after transiting through Iranian and Iraqi airspace. When it comes to the question of Russian tactical aircraft operating in the area, rumors have persisted that Su-25s and possibly attack helicopters have arrived, although these rumors have not been confirmed.
As for the Assad government’s official position on the buildup, well they say it isn’t happening, with Syria’s ambassador to Moscow stating: “...talk of your (Russian) troop presence on the Syrian territory is a lie spread by Western countries, the United States.”
Whoever knew that Baghdad Bob has such a fan club!?
Photo via Vitaly V. Kuzmin/wikicommons
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.