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Russia used Iskander-M ballistic missile in Syria. Is a large-scale offensive being prepared?

This post was published in Vzglyad. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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MOSCOW, (BM) – In the course of the most powerful attack on terrorists in Syria in recent months, the Russian military destroyed facilities where fighters of foreign PMCs trained militants. At the same time, it is reported that the Iskander-M complex was used against them for the first time, which may indicate the preparation of a major offensive by the Syrians on the position of Turkey. Is it really?

According to a military source on the Voenkory Russian Vesna Telegram channel, in addition to the Iskander-M operational-tactical complex, Su-34 and Su-24M bombers were involved in the Russian attack. The main target of the strikes was the training camp for the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group (banned in Russia), which was located on an area of ​​more than 90 hectares near the town of Maarat-Misrin.

More than 300 jihadists were trained there under the guidance of instructors from foreign private military companies. The total number of terrorists killed in the attack is currently being specified, but overall, the attack was named the largest since at least March.

The aforementioned Telegram channel is considered close to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, previously it has repeatedly published exclusive photo and video materials about the activities of the military department. In other words, on the whole, this source can be trusted, but in some ways he is mistaken: this is not the first combat use of the Iskander-M complex in Syria.

Iskanders appeared in the SAR long ago. For the first time, the presence of these missile systems at the Khmeimim base was reported back in December 2017. At the same time, the Ministry of Defense first announced its combat use against the most important targets of the militants. Let us emphasize that we are talking about Iskander-M, and not about an older modification of Iskander.

Apparently, the discrepancy arose due to the fact that the Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, in the reporting report for 2017, mentioned the use of simply Iskander, without the addition of “M” – modified. Most likely, this was done for the sake of simplicity of presentation in a general list of all the means and forces that were involved in the SAR.

Anyway, exactly one year later, Deputy Prime Minister for the Defense Industry Complex Yuri Borisov said in an interview with RIA Novosti that Iskander-M (in this version) “showed high efficiency during the hostilities in Syria He added.

Thus, the current use of Iskander-M on the KhTSh base cannot be called the first – and this does not attract a sensation. Two units of this complex were deliberately “run in” in the SAR along with the latest Tornado-G and Smerch multiple launch rocket systems. As a result, the identified shortcomings were sent for revision, this is a normal practice.

As for the KhTSh camp near Maarat-Misrin and in general all the environs of this settlement in Idlib, they have been bombed for the third day. Harsh Batinta to the east of Maaret Misrin, and Ash-Sheikh Bayr to the west of him, and the village of Arab Said, and the Zawiya mountains, and the unreleased part of the Al-Gharb valley are attacked.

All of this is very similar to the artillery and air preparation of the next offensive, which will defuse the months-long lull on the Idlib front.

After the conclusion of agreements between Russia and Turkey on the situation in Idlib, the fighting in Syria was exclusively local and looked like partisan operations. But recently, the situation around several Turkish observation posts, which remained in the rear of the Syrian government army, has become aggravated again. They are completely surrounded and dependent on supplies from the Russian contingent.

For example, the Syrian authorities urge the local population to hold a rally near the Turkish NP near the village of Al-Surman – allegedly protest actions can induce the Turks to leave the NP. This, of course, is unlikely, but the initiative itself is indicative.

After the successful spring offensive of the Syrian government army (which few people noticed, since everyone was distracted by the coronavirus), the Turkish NPs in its deep rear have no military significance. But this is a symbol of Turkish participation in the operation in Idlib and an attempt to save face, since the actions of Erdogan’s army in the last campaign there were extremely unsuccessful, despite the massive use of drones and serious losses suffered by the Syrians.

There is information that Moscow and Ankara are negotiating a possible reduction of the Turkish contingent in northwestern Syria. Underneath this may also hide the withdrawal of those very surrounded NP, which are of no use, but they are supplied entirely and completely at the expense of the goodwill of the Russians.

Recently, the Turks have been patrolling the M4 highway alone. True, not the whole, but the section from At-Tronbe to Jisr-ash-Shugur, and in Jisr-ash-Shugur itself, where jihadists – natives of the post-Soviet space – have settled, do not bother. Instead, a clearly surplus Turkish contingent is trying to control everyday life in Idlib.

Another thing is that the three-day fire activity of the Russian Aerospace Forces, divisional artillery and even heavy missile systems will not necessarily develop into a new offensive by the Syrians. It is possible that this is an ordinary local outbreak that coincided with negotiations on the withdrawal of Turkish troops.

In addition, jihadists behave quite arrogantly, regularly posting videos on the Internet about how they spend their time. For example, just the other day, the Jamaat Ansar al-Islam group, which is part of the conglomerate of the former Al-Qaeda, shared footage of how it is mastering the brand new Bulgarian battalion 120-mm M75 mortars, which are produced at the Dunarit plant, owned by entrepreneur Gebrev …

The one who claims that he was hounded by “Novichok”.

The Americans bought these mortars from Gebrev, and then distributed them to the so-called moderate. It was believed that this practice stopped after the defeat of the main forces of terrorists in Syria, but they again reminded of themselves. Bad sign.

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