U.S. vexed over "Russian military presence" in Syria. That presence, in Tartus, goes back to Soviet times and it's nothing new. If the U.S. wants Russia to vacate Syria, the U.S. can leave Turkey, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somaliland. -Wayne Madsen
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, a steady stream of Russian weapons and resupply shipments have entered Syria to help Assad's forces. But in recent weeks, reports show that assistance escalating.
In August, news footage from Syria showed updated versions of Russian-made BTR-82A fighting vehicles with Russian military markings that hadn't been seen before in the country. A video clip from the conflict also appeared to show orders being given in Russian to a tank operator.
Also last month, a website that tracks ships moving through the strait between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean published photos of a Russian landing ship that appeared to be carrying several armored vehicles under camouflage netting and four military transport trucks.
This week, a Twitter account associated with the Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate fighting Assad's forces, published what appeared to be images of Russian attack aircraft, including a Russian-made drone and a Sukhoi SU-34 fighter jet. The account claimed the aircraft were photographed flying over Idlib, where Syrian opposition forces recently have made advances into government-controlled territory.
"Russia is one of Syria's most important allies and has supplied military and political support to the Assad regime since the beginning of this crisis," a U.S. intelligence official said. "Whether stories of increased Russian assistance are wishful thinking or real support, they do highlight the increasing desperation of the Assad regime."