The enemy of my enemy has safe air bases.
In a move which either suggests that i) Syria is preparing for more US attacks, ii) really likes Russians, or iii) is simply doing the logical thing, CNN reports that the Syrian government has moved most of its combat planes to a base located in close proximity to the Russian air base in Syria to protect them from potential US strikes. The movement of the aircraft to the air base at Bassel Al-Assad International Airport began shortly after the US’s April 6 Tomahawk cruise missile strike on Sharat air base, which destroyed some 24 Syrian warplanes.
After the move, the majority of Syria’s operation airforce will be located next to Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base, where the majority of Russian air forces helping ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are based, in Latakia, Syria.
The Khmeimim base, along with a naval facility in Tartus, is one of the two of the primary Russian military installations in Syria, and has in the past been shown to be protected by one or more Russian anti-aircraft missile installations.
While the motive behind the move is obvious, CNN nonetheless points it out:”The regime in Damascus may be calculating that the US would be more reluctant to strike in close proximity to the Russian troops and their anti-aircraft systems.”
Two weeks ago, the US warned Moscow via a pre-established channel in advance of its April 6 cruise missile strike in order to prevent any Russian casualties. So with Russian military assets clearly on the “do not target” list, it was only logical that Assad would do everything to move as many of his own assets as close to the Russian air base as possible.
It was unclear what the current state is of the transported Syrian airplanes. Shortly after the April 6 strike, US defense officials said that the its retaliatory strike incapacitated some 20% of the regime’s operational fixed-wing aircraft, making the preservation of the remaining planes of the utmost importance to Damascus.
“The Syrian Air Force is not in good shape. It’s been worn down by years of combat plus some … significant maintenance problems,” Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.
The US has not ruled out additional strikes against the regime should it opt to use chemical weapons in the future. “The Syrian regime should think long and hard before it again acts so recklessly in violation of international law against the use of chemical weapons,” Mattis said, later adding: “If they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price.”
Unless, of course, as Oliver Stone most recently suggested, it wasn’t Syria using chemical weapons and instead the attack was as Putin said last week, a false flag. Which begs the question: should another “chemical attack” or “false flag” take place, will the US dare to target Syrian assets in dangerous proximity to the Russian base, or will it simply decide to aim for Assad’s palace. After all, by now it is clear to most that the US goal, from the beginning, has been regime change.