Syrian regime 'preparing Latakia countryside offensive with Russian support'

Syrian regime 'preparing Latakia countryside offensive with Russian support'
Analysis: Syrian opposition sources say they have good reason to believe a Russian-backed regime offensive in Latakia is imminent, to secure coastal strongholds and recapture areas lost to the opposition
2 min read
23 September, 2015
Russia has reportedly delivered advanced weapons to the Damascus regime, including T-90 battle tanks [Getty]
Amid reports of an extensive Russian military build-up over the past few weeks in support of the Syrian regime, especially in the coastal regime strongholds, there are indications Moscow's support will soon be put to use to help the regime reverse its recent losses.

Logic dictates that the regime would begin deploying the new Russian armaments and expertise in the coastal areas, first and foremost, to secure them from any offensive by the opposition.

The Army of Conquest, a coalition of Islamist Syrian rebel groups, is already at the gates.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed
sources in Syrian opposition groups operating along the coast, quoting defected Syrian army officers, said that the Damascus regime was preparing for a major offensive on two main fronts.

One would proceed in the direction of the opposition-held city of Salma in Jebel al-Akrad; and the other in the direction of the hills of Jab al-Ahmar, which overlook the strategic al-Ghab plains and would help the regime retake nearby areas from the opposition.

The sources said the Russians will participate in the offensive with advisers, but not troops - in accordance with Russian-drafted plans for the regime to retake the areas captured earlier this year by the Army of Conquest.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed
also spoke to Bilal al-Awsi, commander of the Free Syrian Army's al-Faruq Brigades.

"Russian participation will not be new, and there are frequent reports about the regime mobilising its forces," he said. "We are always prepared for these contingencies."

It seems that the regime forces, by seeking to launch a major offensive towards the hills of Jab al-Ahmar, want to achieve several goals.

Controlling the hills would mean opening the road to the town of Sirmaniyah in the Ghab plains. It would also allow the regime to protect its remaining military bases near Jurin and prevent opposition forces from capturing them.

Taking the hills, in addition to allowing the regime forces to expand the range of their artillery to cover most areas of al-Ghab plain and Jebel al-Akrad, would make it easier for them to launch a later offensive into Jisr al-Shughur, the strategic city captured earlier this year by the opposition.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.