ALEPPO, Syria — Russian troops launched military operations in Syria a few hours after the Federation Council gave approval to President Vladimir Putin Sept. 30 to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation outside Russian territory. Although Moscow claims these operations are to provide the Syrian regime with air support against the Islamic State (IS), their primary targets in fact have been Syrian opposition forces, in particular the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Russia's actions thus far appear to confirm Western concerns about whether Russian forces were dispatched to fight IS or the armed opposition.
On Sept. 30, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed through its spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, that Russian warplanes had carried out some 20 strikes against eight IS targets, but failed to provide details of the target locations. On the ground, however, it was evident that the Russians had hit regions controlled by the opposition in Talbiseh and Rastan in the Homs countryside and al-Lataminah in the Hama countryside, and other areas.