Bloomberg reports: As Russia’s air war in Syria nears its fourth week, officials now admit that Moscow’s aim is far broader than the publicly announced fight against terrorist groups.
The Kremlin’s real goal is to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad retake as much as possible of the territory his forces have lost to opponents, including U.S.-backed rebels, Russian officials told Bloomberg News. Moscow’s deployment of several dozen planes, as well as ships in the Black and Caspian Seas, could last a year or more, one official said.
President Vladimir Putin is willing to run the risk of falling into the kind of quagmire that helped sink the Soviet Union a generation ago for the chance to roll back U.S. influence and demonstrate he can dictate terms to Washington. If the strategy is successful, Russia’s largest military drive in decades outside the former Soviet Union would force the U.S. and its allies to choose between Assad, whom they oppose for his human-rights abuses, and the brutal extremists of Islamic State.
“They’re going to have to recognize that Islamic State is the real threat that has been countered only by the Syrian regular army commanded by President Bashar al-Assad,” said Iliyas Umakhanov, deputy speaker of Russia’s upper house Federation Council, who oversees international relations at the assembly.
A top Russian military official said on Friday that the Kremlin sees no moderate opposition in Syria, leaving only terrorists and the pro-Assad forces Moscow is backing. [Continue reading…]
This echoes the position that the Assad regime has long maintained: that the only opposition it faces is from “terrorists.”
On the one hand the Syrian government claims that it is open to diplomatic initiatives and yet at the same time it says there is nothing to negotiate until its opponents have been “eradicated.”
In essence, what Putin and Assad are saying is this: We want to promote peace — as soon as we’ve won the war.