TEL AVIV – News reports in the Arab world claim Russia is planning to escalate its military involvement in Syria by sending in ground troops and increasing airstrikes, according to translations provided by the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI).
Syrian and pro-Syrian Lebanese media have published reports over the past two weeks claiming that Russia is launching a new stage of its offensive in Syria, with December witnessing unprecedented escalation in which a ground operation will be launched. “December will be hot on the ground in Syria,” Lebanese daily Al Akhbar reported.
In a talk with the Russia’s Ministry of Defense on November 20, President Vladimir Putin said that the current offensive in Syria is “not enough to clear Syria of armed and terrorist groups and defend Russia from a possible terrorist attack,” adding his hope that the next stages of the offensive will lead to better results.
According to MEMRI, Russia’s decision to increase its involvement in Syria is likely motivated by the upcoming UN supervised meeting on January 1, 2016, in which Syrian regime and opposition representatives are set to negotiate. Russia and its allies Syria and Iran are hoping that the next stage of the offensive will earn them “bargaining chips” ahead of the meeting.
A spokesperson in Kremlin denied the charge that Russia will deploy ground troops in Syria. However, Arab media recently reported that the situation on the ground in Syria has already escalated, with Russian infantry forces being dispatched and the expansion of Russia’s aerial campaign.
According to a Russian report by the Russia defense ministry, Russia will also deploy new artillery forces in the region. The defense minister further announced that the Russian navy has begun shelling Syrian targets from both the Mediterranean and the Caspian seas.
A columnist at the Syrian government’s daily, Al-Watan, reported that “the statement by President Putin that the current operations in Syria are insufficient means that there are preparations for major future activity, namely dispatching additional ground troops.”