While the US was been surprised and angered by the stunningly fast turn of events in Syria where in the span of less than a month Russia unleashed a massive, Syria-based airborne campaign against what it says are ISIS terrorists, even as the US accuses Putin of targeting "moderate rebels", it has had little recourse in accusing Putin of violating Syrian sovereignty: after all Russia is the only nation that Syria has officially invited to eradicate the "terrorist threat" that is ISIS.
Then, last Friday, Syria raised the stakes once again, when as Bloomberg reported a loyalist of the Assad regime said "terrorism cannot only be fought from the air," making an appeal for more military involvement to defeat Islamic State.
In a defiant speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem criticized the current approach to fighting the group that has conquered swathes of territory and was encroaching on President Bashar al-Assad’s coastal stronghold in Latakia. Those gains triggered Russian intervention.
“Air strikes are useless unless they are coordinated with the Syrian Arab army, the only force to combat terrorism,” al-Muallem, who also holds the title of deputy prime minister, told a largely empty assembly hall on Friday, the last day of speeches.
The logical implication is that Syria will next invite, if it hasn't already done so, Russian troops to join the Russian airforce in eradicating the great ISIS strawman which until recently was the pretext for "coalition" forces to bombard Syria with complete disregard for Syrian sovereignty, and the intention of destroying Assad's military so the CIA can conclude a regime change with a pro-western leader, one which will permit the passage of a Qatar gas pipeline.
Whether or not this assessment is accurate is irrelevant, because earlier today the US decided to jump right on it, and as CNN reported, accordint to the latest U.S. assessment of Moscow's activity in western Syria, "Russia has moved several ground combat weapons and troops into the area to potentially back up Syrian forces in the field planning to attack anti-regime forces, according to two U.S. defense officials."
The U.S. views the move as Russia "stepping up its ground activity" in Syria to attack those forces, rather than ISIS elements, according to one of the officials.
It's believed the Russians are positioning the weapons to be able to support a Syrian ground offensive, the officials said.
The equipment includes several piece of artillery, as well as four BM-30 multiple-launch rocket systems -- all considered to be highly accurate weapons. The latter is capable of rapid-fire rocket launches. Several weeks ago, Russia moved about half a dozen artillery pieces into Latakia port.
The U.S. originally had thought that might be for defense of the port, but the latest move is an indication of potential ground attacks in the coming days, the official said. The weapons have been spotted between Homs and Idlib and west of Idlib.
It is not clear if they're now in final position for possible artillery strikes.
The officials also said that Russia has moved electronic jamming equipment into Syria. Both a truck-mounted system and a number of pods that can go on aircraft have been observed. This could potentially give the Russians the ability to jam electronics of coalition aircraft.
Naturally, when playing the diplomatic game, one never admits or denies one's true intentions until well after the fact, and moments ago the speaker of the Russian Federation Valentina Matviyenko denied. According to Interfax, Matviyenko said Russia has no intention of taking part in ground operations in Syria.
"We do not intend, and we will not engage in any ground operations" said Matvienko in the meeting with the head of Jordan's Senate president Abdelraouf al-Rawabdeh. She stressed that the Russian air campaign in Syria is to support the actions of the regular Syrian army against terrorists.
Which, ironically, is the excuse for US presence in Syria too.
What happens next? A very likely course of events is that despite Russia's denials, the Pentagon will use the gambit of a Russian ground campaign, credible or not, to get permission from Congress to send a "small", at first, then bigger ground force of US troops in Syria to, you guessed it, "fight ISIS", but really to do everything to prevent Russian troops from taking over key strategic positions.
What happens then? Well, with the previously discussed Russian naval blockade of Syria as a likely next step, and with both US and Russian warplanes already flying back and forth above Syria, and now both superpowers having a legitimate, if only in the eyes of their own media, justification to dispatch land troops, what was until now a mere proxy war is about to become full blown land combat on Syrian soil, one which will soon involve both Russian and US ground, sea and airborne forces.
The last missing step will be when US cruisers, destroyers and/or battleships park next to the Syrian coastline, within earshot (and every other "shot") away from comparable Russian warships. Keep tabs on the weekly US naval update, because once several US warships weigh anchor in the vicinity of Syria that will be the catalyst for the next and final escalation.
At that point, the world will be one false flag away from what some could call another world war, only this time one launched not in Serbia but Syria.