US, Russia boost forces over Syria
BEIRUT - The United States and Russia are deploying advanced weapons systems in the Middle East amid concerns the two powers may be edging towards a proxy war in Syria.
US President Barack Obama authorised the deployment of 12 F-15C fighter aircraft to the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey, a half-hour’s flight from Syria, where Russian officials say they are deploying more surface-to-air missile batteries to protect Moscow’s expanding military intervention to aid the embattled Damascus regime.
The F-15C’s mission is to shoot down other aircraft, not conduct strikes against ground targets. Russia has deployed Sukhoi air superiority fighters at its Syrian base in north-western Syria along with ground-attack jets, although no Syrian rebel force has aircraft.
The first F-15s arrived at Incirlik, from which Turkey allows the United States to mount air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS) rebels in Syria, on November 6th.
Although Turkey’s air force is one of the strongest in the region, the US Air Force said the F-15 deployment was made after Ankara “requested support in securing the sovereignty of Turkish airspace” following intrusions by Syria-based Russian jets.
Russian officials say the additional air-defence systems sent to Syria include the Buk anti-aircraft missile, the same make of weapon that shot down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.