Russian Strikes in Syria: November 9 - November 19, 2015
Russia shifted its air campaign in an effort to mimic the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition's recent offensive to target ISIS-run oil and natural gas infrastructure from November 18-19. Russian military chief of staff Col. Gen. Andrey Kartapolov announced on November 18 "Russian warplanes are now flying on a free hunt" against ISIS-operated oil tanker trucks traveling back and forth from Syria and Iraq, claiming that Russian strikes had destroyed over 500 ISIS-operated oil trucks in the past "several days." This claim follows a November 16 U.S.-led coalition strike near Deir ez-Zour, which destroyed at least 116 ISIS-operated oil tanker trucks. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that its long-range warplanes based in southern Russia conducted strikes against ISIS in both Deir ez-Zour and ar Raqqa Provinces. There was a notable influx of Russian strikes in the countryside of Deir ez-Zour, an area crucial to ISIS’s oil revenue. Local reporting has not yet substantiated claims of Russian airstrikes in ar Raqqa. French warplanes, however, continued to heavily bombard ISIS’s position in ar Raqqa from November 18-19. The targeting of ISIS-held oil infrastructure will allow Russia to present its interests as aligned with Western countries such as France despite Russia’s continued targeting of Syrian armed opposition groups in support of the Syrian regime’s ground campaign. Russia's recent escalation against ISIS in Deir ez-Zour may also be intended to demonstrate the irrelevance of the U.S.'s newest initiative inside Syria.
High-Confidence reporting. ISW places high confidence in reports corroborated both by official government statements reported through credible channels and documentation from rebel factions or activist networks on the ground in Syria deemed to be credible.
Low-Confidence reporting. ISW places low confidence in secondary sources that have not been confirmed or sources deemed likely to contain disinformation.