Russian warplanes begin striking Syria: Who are they targeting?

Russian warplanes begin striking Syria: Who are they targeting?

Russian forces initiated air strikes in support of the Assad government on September 30th, 2015. According to Russian sources, sorties were carried out at the order of Bashar al Assad. Initially, Russian officials claimed that their military presence in Syria was to accomplish the following objectives: aid the Syrian government through training and advice, to deliver preexisting orders based on bilateral arms contracts between the two nations, and to deliver aid to the Syrian people. The air strikes have raised doubts about the true nature of Russia’s war against terrorism as last two days’ sorties targeted areas that some say are not being held by ISIS.

Russia began its effort by conducting multiple air strikes in Syrian opposition held areas. On September 30th, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russian air strikes were exclusively targeting ISIS positions. A Syrian military official went further and confirmed the strikes as he said, “Russian and Syrian airplanes carried out numerous strikes today against terrorist positions in Hama, Homs and Latakia provinces. ” The Russian defense ministry stated that 20 flights struck eight ISIS targets without any civilian casualties. According to al Jazeera on the 1st of October, Russia confirmed that it is targeting groups other than ISIS in Syria. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, “These organizations (on the target list) are well-known, and the targets are chosen in coordination with the armed forces of Syria.” He added that Moscow and the West have different views on what constitutes a terrorist.

Sources have confirmed that Russian airstrikes had taken place on the 30th of September, but the targets have not been confirmed as being ISIS held areas. According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “at least 27 people, including five women and six children, had been killed in airstrikes on areas in the Homs towns of Rastan, Talbisa and Zafarana, while videos circulated purporting to show the aftermaths of the raids. ” The Syrian Civil Defense group, a volunteer disaster response group, specified that a bread depot in Talbisa was struck during one bombing run. Air raids on the 1st of October again targeted Hama and Homs and have begun in jisr al-Shughour in Idlib province. Details on the October 1st’s raids have not been released.

Responses to today’s strikes by Western coalition members and Syrian opposition sources have been different from the Russian and SARG accounts.* British Prime Minister David Cameron said that if the strikes have targeted ISIS held positions then it will be acceptable; however, he did not confirm any reports. French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius said that Russia did not target ISIS members or ISIS-held areas. The pro-opposition All4Syria reported that the Russians targeted, “Zafarana north of Homs as well as near the town of Lataminah northwest of Hama, neither of which are ISIS strongholds. ” Initially, the US confirmed that Russia notified the coalition that a Russian operation was imminent; however, American officials did not confirm the results of the Russian strikes, but did dispute the claims that Russia was only targeting jihadist held sites. According to Senator John McCain the initial Russian air strikes targeted Free Syrian Army recruits in Syria who were trained by and are allied to the US.

The recent Russian military buildup had reignited diplomatic efforts between the West and Russia; however, how Russia executes its military operations will be critical. If Russia does not target ISIS, but instead merely conducts operations against the Syrian opposition, this will have adverse effects on any future coordination and diplomatic efforts between Russia and the Western coalition while also adversely affecting the moderate Syrian opposition. More importantly, Russian air strikes of non ISIS-held positions may lead to an increase of people fleeing Syria.

*SARG- Syrian Arab Republic Government


%d bloggers like this: