Russian air force jets hit several non-ISIS insurgent alliance targets overnight near the northwest Sryian town of Jisr al-Shughour during the second day of air assaults that has raised fresh concerns about Russian intentions in the Middle East.
Russian defense authorities reported that their air attacks hit eight targets, including four Islamic State targets that were recently posted on You Tube video.
But much of the targeted areas in the second day of Russian air attacks are not controlled by ISIS and are held by insurgent groups forming the Sunni Army of Conquest, including the Nursa Front, an affiliate of al Qaeda, that coordinates with more moderate anti-Assad factions such as the Free Syrian Army, and receives training and support from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Yesterday Russian jets launched 20 air attacks groups against U.S. backed insurgent groups operating in Homs which has no ISIS presence.
The move led to criticism from Senator John McCain (R-Ariz), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“The strikes in the city of Homs is not under control of ISIS of the Islamic State so already we are seeing the true intentions of Vladimir Putin which is to maintain a strong position in Syria, his foothold in the Middle East, and his propping up of Bashar Assad, who has killed at least 250,000 of his own people.
Russia’s defense minister admitted that on Wednesday 20 Russian air force flights were made and eight of them struck Islamic State targets.
“Today, Russian aerospace force jets delivered pinpoint strikes on eight ISIS terror group targets in Syria. In total, 20 flights were made,” spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, said yesterday.
The United States, which leads a large coalition against ISIS targets, only received an hour notice of the air assaults in Syria on Wednesday.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter voiced criticism about Russia’s approach towards handling the conflict in Syria.
Yesterday during a press conference Carter said that Russia’s approach is tantamount to “pouring gasoline on the fire” and runs the risk of escalating tensions in the region.
“Russia states an intent to fight ISIL on the one hand, and to support Bashar al-Assad, and his regime, on the other. Fighting ISIL without pursuing a parallel political transition only risks escalating the civil war in Syria — and with it, the very extremism and instability that Moscow claims to be concerned about and aspire to fighting” Carter said.
Carter said this is not the kind of behavior that we should expect professionally from the Russian military and later explained to a reporter that the United States believes that at least some parts of the anti-Assad opposition belongs as part of the political transition going forward.