Washington: Russia’s recent military build-up in Syria indicated that it intended to create a military base in Syria, the Pentagon said.
“We have seen indications in recent days that Russia has moved people and things into the area around Latakia (Syria’s coastal province) and the air base there that suggests that it intends to establish some sort of a forward air operating base,” Xinhua news agency quoted Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis as saying on Monday.
Davis said the Pentagon was closely monitoring the build-up, but declined to provide further details regarding the Russian military personnel and equipment being flown to Syria.
While calling Russia’s military support to the Syrian government “unhelpful and risk,” Davis declined to comment on whether the US-led coalition had invited Russia to join the air campaign against IS.
“We have said before that we would welcome Russian contributions to the overall global effort against (the IS),” he said.
The New York Times on Monday reported at least seven giant Russian Condor transport planes had taken off from Russia during the past week to Syria and passed through Iranian and Iraqi airspace, citing US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Under the US pressure, Bulgaria, a NATO member, had already closed its airspace to the Russian planes.
However, the Iraqi government had so far yet to take actions and still kept the airspace open to Russian planes despite being urged by US diplomats to follow Bulgaria’s example earlier this month.
Support for U.S. President Donald Trump increased slightly among Republicans after he lashed out on Twitter over the weekend in a racially charged attack on four minority Democratic congresswomen, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows.
The national survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Trump told the lawmakers they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” showed his net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points to 72%, compared with a similar poll that ran last week.
Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents since the Sunday tweetstorm.
Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago. His net approval – the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove – dropped by 2 points among Democrats in the poll.
Trump’s overall approval remained unchanged over the past week. According to the poll, 41% of the U.S. public said they approved of his performance in office, while 55% disapproved.
The results showed strong Republican backing for Trump as the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a symbolic resolution on Tuesday, largely along party lines, to condemn him for “racist comments” against the four Democratic lawmakers.
All four U.S. representatives – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – are U.S. citizens.
The public response to Trump’s statements appeared to be a little better for him than in 2017, after the president said there were “very fine people” on both sides of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In that instance, Trump’s net approval dropped by about 10 points a week after the Charlottesville rally.
This time, while Democrats and some independents may see clear signs of racial intolerance woven throughout Trump’s tweets, Republicans are hearing a different message, said Vincent Hutchings, a political science and African-American studies professor at the University of Michigan.
“To Republicans, Trump is simply saying: ‘Hey, if you don’t like America, you can leave,” Hutchings said. “That is not at all controversial. If you already support Trump, then it’s very easy to interpret his comments that way.”
By criticizing liberal members of the House, Trump is “doing exactly what Republicans want him to do,” Hutchings said. “He’s taking on groups that they oppose.”
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English and gathered responses from 1,113 adults, including 478 Democrats and 406 Republicans in the United States. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points for the entire group and 5 points for Democrats or Republicans. (VOA)