Today Russia’s defense ministry released a statement claiming that their jets flew around 20 missions over Syria on Wednesday. Russia’s news agencies released a statement claiming that the strikes were targeting ISIS militants, which fell under immediate criticism from Syrian activists, rebel groups, and the U.S. government.
Syrian Rebels Deny Russian Claims
Syrian rebel groups, including the FSA, immediately released statements claiming that the Russian airstrikes were nowhere near ISIS positions. The rebels claim that their true targets were “moderate” rebels fighting against Assad, some of which have been armed and trained by the U.S.
The photo on the left taken from Google Maps shows the exact location of the strike, as it matches up clearly with the aerial footage filmed by the Russian SU-24 bombers. Activists state that the location shown has no ISIS presence whatsoever.
Footage released of Russian airstrikes by Russia.
The same strike filmed from the ground.
United States Condemns Russian Attacks
These claims sparked a warning from the US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the U.S. would have “grave concerns” if the strikes carried out by Russia were in areas not held by ISIS forces.
If the strikes were in fact targeting moderate groups of rebels fighting against Assad’s forces, it would mean that Russia is now officially attacking forces that the United States is arming, training, and advising.
With Russia’s public stance of supporting Assad, it would be no surprise if these attacks were in fact targeted at groups that the U.S. has armed to help take Assad out of power.
Are We Technically At War With Russia?
While the situation in Syria is seemingly complex, the simple fact of the matter is that Russian and American bombers are now conducting air strikes in Syria, most likely against opposing forces with opposite goals. Both the U.S. and Russia are claiming that their airstrikes are only targeting ISIS forces, but both sides have much larger goals of seeing Assad fall from power, or hold onto control over Syria.
The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, stated today that there will be meetings with Russia in the near future to discuss how Russia and the U.S. will manage having their jets in the same airspace conducting combat operations.
The new reality of Russian and U.S. bombers conducting separate combat operation within the same area of operations is sure to make for interesting developments to the war in Syria in the coming weeks. It seems that this is no longer just a proxy war.