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Russia's expanding military presence in Syria

Russia is apparently establishing its first air base in the Middle East, at Jableh, Syria, a move that would change the rules of the game in the region.
A sailor looks at the Russian missile cruiser Moskva moored in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol in this May 10, 2013 file photo. Russia is sending two warships to the east Mediterranean, Interfax news agency said on August 29, 2013, but Moscow denied this meant it was beefing up its naval force there as Western powers prepare for military action against Syria. Picture taken May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (UKRAINE - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS MARITIME CONFLICT) - RTX130BI

Russia's less-than-transparent intentions in Syria could put a damper on Turkey's very clear desire to establish a safe zone north of Aleppo. Although official Syria has been silent, local sources say it appears Russia aims to establish its first military air base in the region, and there are unofficial reports that the harbor of Tartus might be extended. Such changes could alter the regional balance of power.

"Syria has completely redone Latakia airport," journalist Thierry Meyssan, who writes for Al Watan, told Al-Monitor in an email. "The ground was leveled. A new runway was built for Russian aircraft. Sheds have been installed to house the aircrafts." Meyssan said workers also are building housing.

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