Syria has reportedly placed what remains of its air force to a military base in the Latakia province that is used by the Russian armed forces.
According to Fox News, virtually all of Syria’s operational fighter and bomber jets and helicopters have been moved to the Russian airbase at Bassel Al-Assad international airport.
The movement reportedly happened shortly after the April 6 Tomahawk cruise missile strike on Shayrat airbase – an attack that destroyed roughly two dozen Syrian aircraft – in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on civilians that killed upwards of 70 innocent people.
The shifting of Syrian aircrafts to the well-defended Russian base, which is ringed by highly advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries, was undoubtedly intended to protect them from U.S. air or missile strikes in the future, as attacks on that Russian-dominated base would likely be considered far too risky to undertake.
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) April 19, 2017
“The Syrian air force is not in good shape. It’s been worn down by years of combat plus some … significant maintenance problems,” Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, according to CNN. “The Syrian regime should think long and hard before it again acts so recklessly in violation of international law against the use of chemical weapons.”
Alluding to the possibility of future strikes against Syria, Mattis said, “If they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price.”
The moving of the remainder of its air force to the Russian base seems to be a clear counter to that threat.
One can only hope it was an act of self-preservation and not in advance of additional chemical weapons attacks that would call for a response from the U.S.