For the second day in a row, Russia has launched airstrikes in Syria. The problem is, they don’t seem to be targeting the enemy.
The United States has reason to believe Russia is launching attacks on U.S.-backed rebel forces. Here is just one telling example:
The observatory also reported that airstrikes hit the northwestern city Jisr al-Shughour, which is in the hands of rebel groups including al-Nusra, after battles last month to drive back Assad’s forces.
Among the locations hit was a site near Kafr Nabl, the northern Syrian town whose weekly protests against the government, often featuring pithy slogans in English, won it renown as a symbol of what began as a peaceful protest movement against the Assad regime. The local council receives U.S. assistance, and the rebel unit there has received support under a covert CIA program aimed at bolstering moderate rebels.
Yet, the Russian military insists it has its sights on the Islamic State:
A spokesman for Russia’s Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, said Thursday that warplanes hit a dozen Islamic State sites in the past 24 hours, destroying targets including a command center and two arms depots.
Gennady Zyuganov, a member of parliament and leader of Russia’s Communist Party, concurred, saying the U.S. accusations were “total rubbish.”
These war of words adds another level of tension to U.S.-Russian relations. Earlier this week at the United Nations General Assembly, Presidents Obama and Putin offered opposing viewpoints on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad’s role in Syria’s bloody civil war. While Putin said we should keep Assad in power, Obama insisted he is part of the problem.
Final note: Instead of responding strongly to Russia’s seeming misguided attacks, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for “deconfliction” talks.