Vladimir Putin’s men have come under criticism for allegedly targeting non-Islamic State fighters as CIA trained rebel groups report they have been targeted by Russian jets.
It was claimed by the Russian defence ministry that 12 IS targets had been hit, including a command centre and two arms depots. But given bombings have been focused on non-ISIS controlled regions, the results have been questioned.
A spokesman for the Kremlin has hardly dispelled those rumours, but he did distinguish the Free Syrian Army was a group not immediately on their radar.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said:
If it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist and if it fights like a terrorist, it is a terrorist. Yes?
We don’t consider Free Syrian Army a terrorist group.
We believe that the Free Syrian Army should be part of the political process, like some other armed groups on the ground composed of the Syrians’ patriotic opposition individuals,”
These comments suggest an attitude very different to one put forward by Putin’s own spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
Peskov previously said:
Does it exist, the Free Syria Army? Haven’t most of them switched to IS group? It existed but whether it does now nobody knows for sure, it’s a relative concept.”
There is growing international concern that with Russian Air strikes and support from Iranian foot soldiers, President Bashar al-Assad will be capable of returning to power. A move not supported by the US, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or Qatar, but one that may have to be diplomatically endured whilst a solution is brokered.
These infra-red images show the extent of damage caused by Russian air strikes.
They certainly look effective, but if they succeed in significantly weakening ISIS on the ground, will Russia’s tolerance of the Free Syrian Army stand when there is opportunity for Assad’s forces to reemerge?
The airstrikes also come as a sudden move from the Russians. A Russian general gave just one hour notice to the U.S Embassy in Baghdad. They told the U.S Air Force that for the safety of all concerned they should stay out of the way and suspend their own bombing campaign.
There has been a consistent amount of tension between Mr Putin and the U.S for some time. Below is a video where he discusses his views on U.S politics and the conflict in Syria. This was from late in 2014.
According to The Telegraph Mr Putin’s decision to intervene has been fully backed by the Upper House of Parliament in Russia, the Russian elite, and the Russian Orthodox Church.