Moscow has opened a new roundabout route for its ongoing military airlift from Sevastopol in Crimea and other bases in southern Russia to the Syrian Mezze Airbase in Damascus, debkafile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources disclose.
This route runs over the Caspian Sea and northern Iran and Iraq and terminates with deliveries at Damascus and the new Russian air and ground base at Jablah, near the Syrian port of Latakia.
The Russians have in this way circumvented the strong US applications to Turkey, Greek, Bulgaria and Cyprus, to close their airspace to Russian shipments for its military buildup in Syria.
Washington’s actions had two results – one less and the other more desirable.
1. Tehran and Baghdad have both been pulled into directly supporting the Russian military interventkion in Syria, after Iraq was bullied by Iran to turn down the US request to close its northern skies to Russian shipments.
Washington refrained from addressing this request to Iran, in keeping with its policy of avoiding strains on relations until the nuclear deal was endorsed in Washington and Tehran.
As a result, heavy Russian transports are flying over parts of Iraq where US forces, including ground intelligence teams for guiding US air strikes against ISIS, are deployed. This makes accidental collisions in the sky a real danger. The Americans have therefore slowed down their aerial war on ISIS.
2. The need for a roundabout air route to Syria has substantially raised the cost of the Russian military expedition. A direct flight over the Mediterranean spans 1,025 km, which the Russian AN-124 (Condor) can cover in two hours. The long way round is three times as long – more than 2,900 km – and takes six hours.
Washington’s challenge to Moscow over air routes to Syria is their first military confrontation over Syria and the new Russian military buildup.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest warned Tuesday night, Sept. 8: “The Russian military buildup would risk confrontation with the counter-ISIL coalition that included the United States.”
He was repeating a similar warning issued a few days ago by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Explicit American threats of a military showdown with Russia over the Middle East is the sort of language not heard for four decades since the 1973 Yom Kippur War which Israel fought against Egypt and Syria.