Russia pounds IS den in Syria; US keenly looks on

RSTV Bureau

putinRussia launched first air strikes targeting the Islamic State (IS) militants in war-torn Syria Wednesday. The Russian warplanes carried out strikes in three Syrian provinces, in what is billed as its first military engagement outside the former Soviet Union since the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979. The Syrian state aircrafts also participated in the raids along with the Russians.

The polemics involving taking on the terror syndicate IS has left the superpowers divided with Russia backing the incumbent Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad, but US pressing for regime change.

Earlier this week at UN General Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin had strongly sought for a broad anti-terrorism coalition that would help fight against Islamic State (IS). Backing Assad, he had said that it will be “an enormous mistake” to refuse cooperation with the Syrian government and its armed forces “who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.”

But on the other side, US President Barack Obama indirectly accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the current IS crisis, even as he went on to say that the US is willing to work with Russia as well as Iran to achieve stability in the area.

However, soon after the air strikes on Wednesday, France immediately raised doubts over whether the Russian raids were aimed at IS. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the press at UN that there “were indications that the Russian strikes did not target Daesh (a pejorative Arab acronym for IS).”

United Nations: United States President Barack Obama, right, and Russia's President President Vladimir Putin head into a bilateral meeting Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, at United Nations headquarters.  Photo - PTI

United Nations: United States President Barack Obama, right, and Russia’s President President Vladimir Putin head into a bilateral meeting Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, at United Nations headquarters.
Photo – PTI

Russia’s air strikes also drew an attention from the Washington which expressed concern that Moscow’s support for its Soviet-era ally may complicate operations of the US-led coalition. US Secretary of State John Kerry told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that Moscow’s move “runs counter to their stated efforts of deconfliction and is not helpful to that effort,” a senior US official said adding that the Russia’s strikes would not alter their coalition’s strategy.

Earlier, before the strikes, Putin had won Russian parliamentary permission to use force abroad. Giving a straight warning to the terror syndicate IS, Mr. Putin also stressed that Assad should be ready for compromise with the opposition.

“We are counting on his active and flexible position, his readiness for compromise for the sake of his country and his people,” Putin said in televised remarks pledging that Russia will not get sucked into a protracted military operation in Syria and called on countries to join an intelligence task force Moscow is setting up with Iran, Iraq and Syria.

In a related development, the Russian Embassy in New Delhi officially informed the Union External
Affairs Ministry on Wednesday its decision to launch air strikes against the IS and other terrorist groups in Syria. The Embassy also added that decision was in accordance with the request of the Syrian President for providing military assistance in fighting the menace of terror syndicate IS.

(With inputs from the PTI)