Russia is taking a more active role in propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, expanding its physical footprint in the Middle East.
As Reported By Business Insider:
American officials admitted to The New York Times that Russia is now using an air corridor over Iran and Iraq to transport military equipment and personnel to Syria despite US attempts to guard this airspace.
Russia is reportedly transporting marines, pre-fabricated housing for at least 1,000 people, a portable air traffic control system, and other items that could be used to create an air base for air combat operations to northwest Syria, according to CBS News.
This constitutes “the most significant new Russian military foothold in the Middle East in decades,” American officials told the Times. Continued Russian military buildup in Syria could “greatly enhance [Russia’s] ability to project power in Syria and neighboring states,” according to the Times.
“This is the most important Russian power projection in the region in decades and it will enhance Russia’s influence throughout the Levant,” Stephen Blank, a Russian military expert at the American Foreign Policy Council, told the Times.
Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA, told CBS News last week that flying over Iran and Iraq was Russia’s last viable option for transporting the material and personnel to Russia after Turkey and Bulgaria refused to let Russia use its airspace for flights to Syria.