Russian parliament unanimously approves use of military in Syria to fight ISIS

 The upper chamber of the Russian parliament has unanimously given a formal consent to President Putin to use the nation’s military in Syria to fight terrorism at a request from the Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Consent was necessary for use of the country's military for foreign combat missions under the Russian constitution, RT reported.

The request for use of force was sent by the president after considering the large number of citizens of Russia and neighboring countries, who went to join terrorist groups fighting in Syria, head of the presidential administration Sergey Ivanov told media. There are thousands of them, and Russia’s national security would be under threat, should they return home, he added.

 “This is not about reaching for some foreign policy goals, satisfying ambitions, which our Western partners regularly accuse us of. It’s only about the national interest of the Russian Federation,” the official said.

Ivanov stressed that no ground operations are planned in Syria. Russia would use its warplanes to hit terrorist targets when requested by the Syrian government. He stressed that unlike the US-led coalition of countries that bombs militant troops in Syria, Russia was invited to do so by the legal authorities of Syria and thus follows international law.

“The military goal of the operation is strictly to provide air support for the [Syrian] government forces in their fight against Islamic State,” he said.

The bombing campaign is time-limited, Ivanov said, not revealing a clear deadline for it. He said he was not authorized to disclose details of the operation such as the number of warplanes involved.

“All our partners and allies will be informed about our decision today through corresponding military channels. Specific military information will be provided as well, I believe,” he concluded.

Military engagement in Syria would not result in Russia being mired in conflict, Konstantin Kosachev, head of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, said commenting on the news.

“We would not risk getting stuck in a long conflict and threaten the lives of our troops. The operation is aerial only. Certainly, in coordination with the ground operation of the Syrian army,” he told the Rossiya 24 news channel.

Previously, Russia provided the Syrian government with advanced weapons and military instructors to teach the Syrians how to use them.

The development comes after Moscow has intensified involvement in Syria, establishing an Iraqi-based military communications center with Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

It also happened just days after President Putin called for an international anti-terrorist effort in Syria that would include the government of President Assad at the UN General Assembly. Western nations have been seeking to oust Assad since 2011, but several key nations such as Germany, France, Britain and the US have confirmed they would not be opposed to Assad staying in power for a transitional period, which would include defeating the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group.

The Syrian Arab Republic Presidency pointed out that the Russian Air Force dispatch to Syria,  and in reply to questions addressed to  the Syrian Presidency about the formula regarding the presence of Russian Air Forces in Syria,  is at the request of the Syrian State through a message from H.E. President Bashar Al-Assad to his Russian Counterpart, H.E. President Vladimir Putin, within the frame of President Putin's initiative to combat terrorism.

The relations among states are guided conventions, agreements and international laws as to safeguard the interests of peoples and their safety and territorial integrity, added the Syrian Presidency in a statement.

Russian military forces start airstrikes in Syria - Ministry of Defense

The Russian Air Force has begun carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, the country’s Defense Ministry said.

"In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin, warplanes of the Russian Air Space Forces today [Wednesday] have started an aerial operation, involving  pinpoint strikes on ground targets of Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] terrorists in Syria,” spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, said, according to RT.

The Russia airstrikes are targeting military equipment, communication centers, vehicles, arms and fuel depots, belonging to IS terrorists, Konashenkov added.

Earlier, a US official told Reuters that Moscow gave Washington one-hour advanced notice of its operations. The bombing is taking place in western Syria, near the city Homs, the official added.

A Pentagon official also told Russia’s RIA Novosti that Russia urged the US to clear the skies for the operation.

Following the reports, Vladimir Putin said all Moscow’s foreign partners have been informed about Russian plans in Syria.

During his meeting with the government, the president stressed that Russia’s participation in the anti-terrorist operation in Syria is based on international law and is being conducted “in accordance with an official request from the president of the Syrian Arab Republic [Bashar Assad]."

On Wednesday morning, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament unanimously gave formal consent to President Putin to use the country’s military in Syria to tackle Islamic State and other terror groups.

The Russian air campaign in Syria is commencing just a few days after Putin’s address at the UN, in which he called for an international anti-terrorist effort in the country.

The Russian president also met with US counterpart Barack Obama on the sidelines of the 70th UN General Assembly, with the two leaders agreeing that Moscow and Washington have common interest in Syria.

 Mohammad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

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