Syria: danger of escalation due to russian attacks?

New airstrikes target militias backed by the U.S

The targets of the Russian air force in Syria are not limited to IS. The targets of the airstrikes were chosen in cooperation with the Syrian army, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov says. "We have a list of terrorist organizations. We know them", he is quoted by RT.

Auben Minister Lavrov also points to cooperation with the Syrian government. Russia intervened at the request of President Bashar al-Assad. Lavrov also draws the target area beyond IS, saying it is about the fight against IS and "other terrorist groups".

"Total anti-terror op"

So, unlike the U.S., France and other countries in the anti-IS coalition that are flying airstrikes in Syria, Russia is acting in accordance with international law. In the attacks, IS is not the only target, but also other terrorist groups. With "Russian anti-terror op in Syria " This is the title of RT’s reporting, although the link still contains the word "BB" "Islamic State" appears. That the "Fight against the Islamic State" Hangers of the Russian attacks were, is not imagination.

It is difficult to read this focus from the targets of the attacks so far. Auber in the case of Rastan, in the governorate of Homs, and Salamiya, located east of Homs, towards Palmyra, there is view of the experts, such as the Swedish journalist Aaron Lund, no IS prasence.

Official information on the exact targets of the attack is not yet to be found. Only the information of the spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashenkov, according to which 8 precise attacks were carried out in 20 flights. With the result that weapons and fuel depots and military equipment, as well as IS coordination centers in the mountains have been completely destroyed.

Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham

More specific details on the targets can be found in media outlets such as the Institute for the Studies of War, which suggest that the targets were not so much IS bases or positions, but positions of other armed militias, of which the Nusra Front is the best known.

Excerpt from the Russian Defense Ministry’s video of the attacks on 1.10.2015

In addition, groups are named, some of which are on the list of those who were supplied with weapons by the CIA. Among them, the Free Syrian Army, a now rudimentary entity that hardly anyone knows what it is actually composed of anymore.

The information should be treated with caution, as the aforementioned institute is said to be close to U.S. interests.

Today, the British Telegraph, referring to the Arab TV station al-Mayadeen, known as Anti-Al-Jazeera, and the Hezbollah-affiliated station al-Manar, reports new attacks by Russian fighter jets. Jisr al-Shughour is named as the target.

This location in Idlib province has only recently been captured by an alliance of jihadist groups called Jaish al-Fatah, whose dominant groups are the al-Qaida militia al-Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham, which is also said to have ties to al-Qaida. What is piquant is that only recently it became known via the Washington Post that this alliance was included in U.S. planning in the framework of cooperation with "moderate rebels" was taken into consideration. It is obvious that Ahrar al-Sham is lobbying Washington (cf. Syria: "New possibilities" of the USA with Ahrar al-Sham?).

Provocation and danger by Chechen jihadists

If the Telegraph’s information is correct – but it does not seem implausible – a picture of the first Russian attacks is crystallizing, which has been in the minds of the Pentagon and the U.S. leadership. If they were visibly irritated by the speed with which the attacks were carried out yesterday, they will be today when it turns out that the targets belong to militias with which cooperation has either already taken place through the CIA or which were the focus of a possible cooperation after they were publicly identified as "terrorists" "moderate" enough were described.

For the Russian leadership, on the other hand, it is not difficult to legitimize the attacks on these groups, since they were waging war against the government in Damascus and are linked to al-Qaeda or are jihadistically motivated. Kerry and Lavrov had agreed that they wanted a secular Syria.

That these attack targets, which have militarily compelling reasons in the Syrian government’s mind – securing key routes of communication and the "Cleanup" strategically important places such as the long-contested Jisr al-Shughour from armed militias – must be provocative for the U.S., however, is also to note. Kerry and Lavrov will have a lot to talk about at their next meeting.

However, those familiar with the militia groups, such as Briton Charles Lister, warn that Russian actions against the militia alliance, which is fighting not only Syrian government forces but also IS, could further inflame the situation.

For example, many Chechen and Russian jihadists are said to be present in Jisr al-Shughour, which could now launch counterattacks. In general, the attacks on non-IS rebels could lead to the growth of the jihadist camp, from which IS could also benefit. How Saudi Arabia or Turkey, which support groups like Ahrar al-Sham and others, will react to the Russian game-changer is another open question.

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