Syrian troops and militia backed by Russian warplanes mounted what appeared to be their first major coordinated assault on Syrian insurgents on Wednesday and Moscow said its warships fired a barrage of missiles at them from the Caspian Sea, a sign of its new military reach.
The combined operation hit towns close to the main north-south highway that runs through major cities in the mainly government-held west of Syria, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights[.]
And apparently a hockey game broke out:
Russian President Vladimir Putin spent his 63rd birthday on the ice Wednesday, playing hockey with NHL stars against Russian officials and tycoons.
Putin scored 7 goals.
We'll see whether the Russian-backed offensive can make lasting gains.
UPDATE: This is a bold claim:
Syria's army announced Thursday a "vast offensive" to wrest back territory from armed opposition groups, as NATO voiced alarm at escalating Russian military activity in the war-torn country.
Assad is reinforced by a couple dozen ground attack aircraft and some cruise missiles strikes from Russia over the last week or so, plus hundreds of Iranian troops for direct combat, and this is the basis for a "vast offensive?"
I seriously doubt it.
I imagines his own troops have a renewed shot of confidence after Russia's intervention. And that will motivate his own shaken troops. For a while. Until the limits of the small interventions by Russia and Iran are demonstrated.
And why would Assad build up the expectations when I don't think results can match what they can achieve on the battlefield?
UPDATE: Of course, I assume Russian Spetsnaz are on the ground at the front calling in air strikes for the imported shock troops. So perhaps we will see how a small force with directed air power can push back rebels.
Perhaps that prospect is why the Iraqis are pondering the prospects of Russian help.