Russian strikes in Syria

WRITTEN BY KALAHAN DENG

Why is Russia bombing Syria?

Russia says the strikes are to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). But most of their first strikes have been against non-Isil groups who are opposed to President Assad’s regime.

Why would Russia bomb non-Isil groups?

Russia’s spokespeople are sometimes vague – referring to Isil and terrorists in the same breath. By “terrorists” they mean the same as President Bashar al-Assad – anyone part of the armed opposition. The gravest threat to the regime’s core areas comes from non-Isil rebels.

What is Russia’s position on President Assad?

President Putin says he believes the survival of the Assad regime is very important. This is why it make sense for Russia to target non-Isil groups first.

Are the non-Isil groups being bombed actually terrorists?

Some of them are. The spectrum of opposition groups ranges from “moderate” brigades, backed by the US, to an alliance called Jaish al-Fatah – Army of Conquest – made up of hardline groups.

The Jaish al-Fatah group includes Jabhat al-Nusra, aligned with al-Qaeda, so they are formally designated by the United Nations as terrorists.