Russia’s Ministry of Defense is accusing the United States of being the last big obstacle in the way of destroying the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Syria. Russia has been repeatedly alleging Washington is shielding the group it claims to be fighting. In the latest sign of rising tensions between Moscow and Washington, the Russian Defense Ministry said the U.S.-led coalition reduced its airstrikes in the region when Syrian President, Bashar-al-Assad’s, forces backed by Russia, started to move in on the Deir al-Zor province, in eastern Syria.
In a statement just this morning, the Ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov said it is his belief that the U.S. is merely pretending to fight ISIS in Iraq in order to purposely allow the group’s militants move freely across the border into Syria.
“The main obstacle to completing the annihilation of ISIS in Syria seems to be not the fighting ability of the terrorists themselves but the support and dalliance with their American colleagues. Everyone sees that the U.S.-led coalition is pretending to fight Islamic State, above all in Iraq, but continuing to allegedly fight Islamic State in Syria actively for some reason.”
Russia has accused the U.S. of assisting ISIS.
Moscow has said its Syrian allies were attacked by militants coming from areas near a deconfliction zone overseen by the U.S.
U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, contradicted Russia’s accusations, telling CNN that the coalition’s main goal was “to kill ISIS or compel them to surrender.”
Multiple groups fighting both ISIS and Assad’s troops have complained that Russian airstrikes are targeting them, as have civilian and aid groups.
Russia has denied all reports of collateral damage in Syria. However, independent observers have accused the country’s air force of killing and wounding more civilians than ISIS or any other combatant in the Syrian Civil War during some months.
The Russian effort in Syria is not a popular one at home and Russian media often staggers gruesome news from the front such as numbers of casualties. Only 12 soldiers have been confirmed dead by Russia, though Reuters estimates that at least 40 Russians have been killed in Syria and buried.
The actions the Pentagon is being accused of, however, leave the Russians to wonder if their change of tack stems from a desire to complicate as much as they can the Syrian Army’s operation, backed by the Russian Air Force, or perhaps, as some have speculated, does the U.S. want to take back Syrian territory to the east of the Euphrates?
Or, as Konashenkov wondered out loud during his briefing this morning, “Is it an artful move to drive Islamic State terrorists out of Iraq by forcing them into Syria and into the path of the Russian Air Force’s pinpoint bombing?”
This is not the first time Konashenkov wondered what the motive of the United States was in the region. Last week, he accused the U.S. of ignoring and effectively providing cover to the Islamic State group’s operations in an area in Syria that is under U.S. control.
[Featured Image by Pavel Golovkin/AP Images]