Military buildup grows in Syria
AP photoThe world’s strongest militaries are queuing up to enter Syria, with Britain the latest to join the already-crowded theater after its parliament voted to join U.S.-led air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
The Turkish government also granted France permission to use its airspace in the fight against ISIL, diplomatic sources have told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“France asked us for authorization to use our airspace in the context of the fight against Deash [ISIL] in Syria. This authorization was given on condition that the general principles outlined for the coalition countries are followed,” the source said.
France is to “intensify Syria operations” after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, said French President François Hollande, while police raided the homes of suspected Islamist militants across France overnight, arresting 23 people, after French aircraft began intensifying bombing ISIL targets in the caliphate’s capital, Raqqa, on Nov. 15.
Meanwhile, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was scheduled to visit Turkey on Dec. 3 to conduct talks with her counterpart, İsmet Yılmaz.
Although no official decision has been taken yet, German and Turkish officials have been working on finalizing a memorandum of understanding on the basis of Germany’s proposals, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Germany wants to send six Tornado reconnaissance jets, refueling aircraft to İncirlik Airbase in southern Turkey, a frigate to protect a French aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea, and up to 1,200 military personnel to the region for one year, in response to a French appeal after the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
Some 550 of the 1,200 German military personnel are set to be deployed on Turkish territory, the diplomatic sources said.
British Tornado jets took off from the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri on Cyprus before dawn, hours after parliament in London voted 397-223 to support Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to extend air strikes from Iraq to Syria. Britain said they struck oil fields used to fund ISIL.
“There are plenty more of these targets throughout eastern, northern Syria which we hope to be striking in the next few days and weeks,” Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said. Britain will send eight more warplanes to Cyprus to join the missions.
The British contribution forms only a tiny part of U.S.-led “Operation Inherent Resolve,” which has been bombing ISIL for more than a year with hundreds of aircraft. Previously, the small British contingent participated in strikes on Iraq but not Syria.
The strikes have so far failed to dislodge the militants from a swathe of territory where they have proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims, although Washington and its allies say they have helped halt the fighters’ advance.
Washington has announced it will deploy more special forces to conduct raids in both Iraq and Syria and help locate targets for air strikes. President Barack Obama said in an interview this did not mean a large scale ground assault like the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq “with battalions that are moving across the desert.”
“But what I’ve been very clear about is that we are going to systematically squeeze and ultimately destroy ISIL and that requires us having a military component to that,” he told CBS.
Russia has started the delivery of its S-300 air defense systems to Iran, TASS news agency quoted an aide to President Vladimir Putin as saying on Dec. 3. “The contract is being implemented, [deliveries of S-300s] are starting,” the agency quoted Vladimir Kozhin as saying.
Three warships from NATO member states Portugal, Spain and Canada have traversed the Dardanelles toward the Black Sea, accompanied by Turkish coastal guard boats.
Their passage comes at a critical time when relations between Turkey and Russia are tense over the former’s downing of a Russian fighter jet that violated its airspace on Nov. 24. NATO has announced that the alliance was working on new measures to support Turkey militarily.
Russia, meanwhile, is reinforcing a military airport in central Syria as a new base for its warplanes as government forces edge closer to Palmyra, a military source and monitoring group said Dec. 3. “The preparation phase for the Shaayrat base is nearing its end. It is being prepared to become a Russian military base,” the military source told AFP, declining to be named.
“A number of Russian advisors arrived in Shaayrat weeks ago,” the source said. The base “will begin being used by Russian forces before the end of this month.”