Moscow —Vladimir Putin fiercely derided the U.S.’ current bombing campaign in Syria during a speech before the Valdai Club, saying, “It is impossible to prevail over terrorism if some of the terrorists are being used as a battering ram to overthrow undesirable regimes.”
Deftly weaving a tongue-in-cheek attack on the schizophrenic American involvement in the Middle East, Putin stated that “It’s always hard to play a double game — to declare a fight against terrorists but at the same time try to use some of them to move the pieces on the Middle Eastern chessboard in your favor. There’s no need to play with words and split terrorists into moderate and not moderate. I would like to know what the difference is.”
And the U.S. has, indeed, engaged in the international battle against terrorism in Syria. However, Russia and others claim that campaign’s choice to distinguish between ‘degrees’ to which groups are considered ‘terrorist’ (i.e. moderate, extreme) — by all appearances, a hierarchical categorization based solely on the ability of said group to further U.S. interests — has muddied the situation in the region considerably, instead.
“What is the difference?” Putin asked, unintentionally parroting Hillary Clinton — adding that “in the opinion of some experts… so-called moderate bandits behead people moderately or gently.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed Thursday it had struck 72 different terrorist targets in Syria over the past 24 hours, according to Yahoo News, further claiming it has now quashed the region’s primary terrorist groups’ combat capabilities.
“As a result of Russian airstrikes, the main forces of terrorist groups, made up of the best-trained terrorists, have lost combat capability. Their command and resupply system has been disrupted,” Andrei Kartopolov, a senior military official, told Russian news outlets, though the claims are unverified.
He went on to say Russia’s 934 sorties have destroyed 819 “terrorist targets” in the Hama, Idlib, Latakia, Damascus, Aleppo, and Deir Ezzor provinces — including a bridge over the Euphrates River that had been vital to a supply chain arming fighters from neighboring Iraq.
On Tuesday, Syrian Army officials denied receiving aid from Russian ground forces — an accusation Syrian news agency SANA wrote off as“baseless and mere propaganda.”
Russia claims the American mission’s focus remains zeroed in on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by arming and aiding the oddly-monikered ‘moderate’ terrorist groups — while the U.S. holds fast to its narrative that Russia’s presence is merely to aid his defense.
Competing versions of precisely what is taking place in Syria — as contradictory as they might be — share lingering doubts about U.S.’ motives:
How did Russia effect such extensive damage to ISIS in just three weeks when American forces couldn’t manage the same in a year?