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Opinion
Josh Rogin and Eli Lake

New Russian Air Defenses in Syria Keep U.S. Grounded

The Kremlin is helping Assad and Islamic State attack Western-backed rebels.
Assad's little helpers.

Assad's little helpers.

Photographer: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Updated on

There is a new crisis for the international effort to destroy the Islamic State, created by the Kremlin. The U.S. has stopped flying manned air-support missions for rebels in a key part of northern Syria due to Russia’s expansion of air defense systems there, and the Barack Obama administration is scrambling to figure out what to do about it.

Russia’s military operations inside Syria have been expanding in recent weeks, and the latest Russian deployments, made without any advance notice to the U.S., have disrupted the U.S.-led coalition's efforts to support Syrian rebel forces fighting against the Islamic State near the Turkey-Syria border, just west of the Euphrates River, several Obama administration and U.S. defense officials told us. This crucial part of the battlefield, known inside the military as Box 4, is where a number of groups have been fighting the Islamic State for control, until recently with overhead support from U.S. fighter jets.