War on ISIL heating up in Syria, Iraq
BAGHDAD / MOSCOW
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, Syrian army rocket launchers fire near the village of Morek in Syria. The Syrian army has launched an offensive this week in central and northwestern Syria aided by Russian airstrikes. CIA-backed rebels in Syria, who had begun to put serious pressure on President Bashar Assad?s forces, are now under Russian bombardment with little prospect of rescue by their American patrons, U.S. officials say. Over the past week, Russia has directed parts of itsIraq has started bombing Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets with help from a new intelligence center that has staff from Russia, Iran and Syria, the head of parliament’s defense and security committee said Oct. 13 as Russia intensifies attacks on the jihadist group in neighboring Syria.
The center, which includes six staff from each country, has been operational for approximately one week, Hakim al-Zamili, a leading Shiite politician, told Reuters.
Iraq’s air force bombed a convoy this week that was thought to be carrying ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, based on information from the center, said al-Zamili. Security officials later said al-Baghdadi had not been in the convoy.
“We can get a lot of use from Russian intelligence, even if they don’t do air strikes,” al-Zamili said.
Two Russian one-star generals are stationed at the intelligence center in Baghdad, according to an Iraqi official who asked not to be named.
Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed Oct. 13 Washington for refusing to share intelligence with Russia on Syria, accusing it of muddled thinking.
“I believe some of our partners simply have mush for brains,” Putin said, expressing some of his strongest criticism yet of Washington’s handling of the Syrian crisis.
“Now, we often hear that our pilots are striking the wrong targets, not ISIL,” Putin said at an investment forum in Moscow explaining that Russia had asked Washington to provide a list of targets.
Russia’s air force hit 86 “terrorist” targets in Syria in 24 hours, the Defense Ministry said Oct. 13, in the highest one-day tally since it launched its bombing campaign on Sept. 30.
“In the last 24 hours, Su-34, Su-24M and Su-25SM planes carried out 88 sorties against 86 terrorist infrastructure targets in the provinces of Raqqa, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said the strikes destroyed a command post outside the town of Anadan, located 16 kilometers northwest of Aleppo, which it said was used by ISIL fighters to coordinate their movements in the area.
Other strikes in the ISIL stronghold of al-Bab, located in the Aleppo region, saw the destruction of a field command center and an ammunition depot.
The Russian Air Force said it had attacked a convoy transporting fuel and ammunition in the Aleppo region.
Strikes outside the village of Latamneh in Hama province destroyed an underground ammunition bunker, the Defense Ministry said.
The Russian military has claimed fighters are low on ammunition, fuel and materials, and that they had begun abandoning their combat positions.
U.S. forces, meanwhile, airdropped small arms ammunition and other supplies to Syrian Arab rebels, barely two weeks after Russia raised the stakes in the long-running civil war by intervening on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.
One military official said the drop, by Air Force C-17 cargo planes in northern Syria on Oct. 11, was part of a revamped U.S. strategy announced last week to help rebels in Syria battling ISIL militants.