Russia will only join air operation against terrorists in Syria - source

Russia's engagement in the hostilities against ISIS will be limited to air support for Syrian governmental forces and the sharing of practices for the use of armaments delivered to Syria.

Russia's engagement in the hostilities against ISIS will be limited to air support for Syrian governmental forces and the sharing of practices for the use of armaments delivered to Syria, a source with knowledge of the situation told Interfax-AVN on Wednesday.

"Planes and helicopters of the Russian Air Force, which are already based on the airfield in Latakia and which have performed familiarizing flights, will be participating in the operation. They will provide air support to operations of Syrian governmental forces," he said, commenting on the Federation Council's decision to permit the use of the Russian Armed Forces abroad which was made at an in-camera meeting on Wednesday.

"The Syrian Air Force has weakened after four years of war and it seems that the use of new planes delivered there has not been mastered by the pilots. So Russian aviation is bound to give more real support to the Syrian servicemen," he said.

"Russian military advisors in Syria have a colossal work to do: they are tasked to rapidly teach Syrian servicemen to operate new military hardware," he said.

"There is also a delicate problem, sensitive to Israel which keeps a wary eye on brand new weapons so that they do not fall into the hands of Lebanese movement Hezbollah members fighting for the Syrian governmental forces. Those coordinating the operation on behalf of the Russian Defense Ministry need to alleviate the Israeli concerns," he said.

The source is confident that it is impossible to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq with air strikes only. "Anyway, the final defeat of the fighters will require a land operation which will be held after UN mechanisms make a relevant decision," he said.

"The only question is which forces will be carrying out that operation," the source said. "Western countries will not allow the engagement of Iranian troops [Tehran is an ally of Damascus]. The only possible way out is to create an Arab coalition led by Egypt which has long been fighting ISIS in the north of the Sinai Peninsula with the appropriate backing of the international community," he said.

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