Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Russian Airstrikes in Syria: September 30 - October 28, 2015

By Genevieve Casagrande and Jodi Brignola

Key Takeaway: Russian airstrikes near Aleppo targeted rebels from October 27-28 as the Syrian regime’s ground offensives suffered setbacks. Syrian regime ground offensives against rebels in the southern countryside of Aleppo and against ISIS near the besieged Kuweires Airbase east of Aleppo City largely stalled following ISIS's offensive against the regime-held town of Safira in the southeastern Aleppo countryside on October 26. Russian airstrikes, however, largely concentrated in rebel-held areas south of Aleppo City and within the city center according to local activist reporting. Rebel forces have historically leveraged ISIS’s offensives against the regime in Aleppo in order to advance against both the regime and ISIS elsewhere in the province. The intensity of Russian airstrikes in Aleppo may limit the Syrian opposition’s ability to capitalize on the regime’s stalled offensive. 

Iranian state news claimed that Russian warplanes targeted ISIS and Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra near the Syrian Golan Heights on October 28. Local reporting in Syria has not yet substantiated these claims. ISW therefore does not assess these strikes with even low-confidence at this time. If confirmed, Russian airstrikes in southern Syria could be a sign of Russian cooperation with Israel and Jordan after both countries established independent coordination “mechanisms” with Russia on September 21 and October 23, respectively. The strikes could alternatively represent an escalation against Syria’s southern neighbors if not coordinated with Amman and Tel Aviv. 

The following graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, Syrian state-run media, and statements by Russian and Western officials.

High-Confidence reporting. ISW places high confidence in reports corroborated both by official government statements reported through credible channels and documentation from rebel factions or activist networks on the ground in Syria deemed to be credible.

Low-Confidence reporting. ISW places low confidence in secondary sources that have not been confirmed or sources deemed likely to contain disinformation.