Today, 8 September, as the new Russian ambassador handed in his credentials to President Trump, a curious lull is apparent in the war of words between Washington and Moscow.
In the United States less is heard about Syria than before. Here one tends to focus on Vladimir Putin’s policy of keeping President Assad in place and to dismiss as a secondary priority his determination to ensure the destruction of ISIS/ISIL.
Certainly while Assad was in serious danger of being overthrown by oppositionists other than ISIS, the first priority clearly held sway at the expense of those backed by the Americans, including the Kurds.
But now that the tide has turned, a serious mopping up is now under way. 1417 sorties have been carried out over the past fortnight. And the Russians hit jackpot with today’s claim to have killed Khalimov, a former special forces officer from Tadzhikistan once trained by the Americans who jumped ship in May 2015 and joined ISIS and before long became war minister of the terrorists and heir apparent to leader al-Baghdadi. This was certainly a target from uncomfortably close to home hit by precise bombardment from one Sukhoi 34 and one Sukhoi 35 fighter bomber on the basis of undisclosed intelligence information.