In a statement on Wednesday, the State Department reported that 90 percent of all Russian military strikes have not targeted ISIS in Syria, or Al Qaeda affiliated groups. Instead they have targeted moderate Syrian forces opposed to the Kremlin backed regime of Bashar al-Assad.
“Greater than 90% of the strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against Isil or al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby. “They’ve been largely against opposition groups that want a better future for Syria and don’t want to see the Assad regime stay in power.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that his military was not making distinctions, but targeting terrorists.
“If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it’s a terrorist,” Lavrov said.
Russian military strikes in Syria began late last month, and despite accusations to the contrary, the Russian government claims that their involvement has no ulterior purposes.
“This is not about reaching for some foreign policy goals, satisfying ambitions, which our Western partners regularly accuse us of. It’s only about the national interest of the Russian Federation,” said Sergey Ivanov, Chief of the Presidential Administration of Russia.
The Russian national interest in Syria seems to involve Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power, a prospect that the U.S. government publicly opposes.
Last month during his address to the United Nations President Obama said that Assad must not remain in power in post-conflict Syria.
“Assad continues to be able to have at his, you know, at his hands the capability of striking his own people, including those who are opposed to his regime,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby. “And that’s not a good future for Syria. It’s also, as we’ve said before, we believe a mistake for Russia, because not only are they going to be exacerbating sectarian tensions there in Syria, but they’re potentially exacerbating sectarian tensions in Russia itself.”
[The Guardian] [BBC]