Blogging has been light lately due to deadlines but I'm starting to emerge from that.
Russia's airstrikes in Syria are already a bone of contention, with Russia saying it flew about 20 sorties against at least eight Islamic State targets, but the West and the Free Syrian Army claiming that they struck civilians and areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army or other non-Islamic State groups.
Assuming Russia's primary goal is to defend the Asad regime, reports that its targets were in the Homs and Hama regions could confirm this because the regime forces are mainly facing the FSA, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other forces there rather than IS. While the US can hardly object to attacks on Nusra, an al-Qa‘ida affiliate attacks on the FSA could be another matter. And several FSA geoups and allies have claimed they were hit. The map below, from the Institute for the Study of War, shows all the attacks as being well to the west of area controlled by the Islamic State, as do the analysis at ISW's website and an early assessment by Fabrice Balanche at The Washington Institute. If these readings are correct (and with so many competing factions in Syria, the Fog of War is even foggier than usual), then it would seem regime defense is the real motivator in target selections.
I will save editorializing until the facts are a bit clearer, but it seems at first glance that Russia's initial strikes are aimed at preventing the further collapse of the regime-controlled zone, which suggests Russia knows exactly what it seeks to accomplish. What is clear is that the situation is transformed and the Russian Bear is in the game.
But FSA and other anti-Asad sources are reporting numerous civilian casualties, and one aviation site is suggesting that videos (see below) released by the Russians suggest that the initial strikes may have been with non-guided munitions and may have missed their targets. It would be interesting to know the Russians' own bomb damage assessment (BDA) of the results of day one.
The third video below purportedly shows Russian aircraft over a Tajammu‘ al-‘Izza (Gathering of Honor) (FSA-aligned) position. I think the aircraft are Su-24s?