And they’re off! Just hours after the Kremlin beefed up its argument for keeping Assad in power with an approval to use military force abroad, Russian forces launched their first strike near Homs, Syria, today, according to U.S. officials. The White House, meanwhile, wants the Syrian leader gone and says he has little effect on the anti-ISIS push. It’s feared that today’s green light will only lengthen the conflict and stir up regional animosity. Saudi Arabia is already pledging boosted support to Syrian rebels while threatening to use military options to remove Assad.