US State Dept. nervous about ‘press reports’ of Russian military in Syria
The media frenzy around the suspected Russian military involvement in Syria reignited after President Putin’s answer was taken out of context when he was asked to clarify whether Russia is ready to take part in military operations against the Islamic State militants in Syria.
“You know, this is a separate issue and we see what is going on right now. Say, the American aviation is making certain strikes. So far, their efficiency has not been very high, but it is too early to say that we are ready to do it,” Putin said.
“However, we are providing Syria with significant support anyway, both in equipment and personnel training, and armaments. We signed major contracts with Syria some five to seven years ago, and we are complying with them in full,” President Putin explained, reminding his audience, that on many occasions before, Russia has honored all contracts signed with the Syrian government.
Yet media outlets worldwide considered the Russian president’s remark somehow sensational, presenting it as nothing less than the first official acknowledgment of Moscow’s military involvement in the Syrian civil war.
The hype caused by those lost in translation apparently forced Secretary John Kerry to confront his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on the issue. In its statement, the US State Department placed a special emphasis on the fact that Kerry expressed “US concerns about reports suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian buildup there.”
“The Secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria,” the statement added, providing material for further eye-opening headlines.
Kerry’s concerns were apparently fueled by a New York Times article, wherein the publication speculated that Russia had supplied Syrians with prefabricated housing units in addition to a portable air traffic control station, with an anonymous source saying that Moscow could be planning the deployment of a military advance team of up to 1,000 troops to Syria.
Based on another anonymous US administration official, the NYT readers are being told that Russian non-existing contingent could soon reach 3,000 personnel.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry meanwhile said the two diplomats spent time discussing “different aspects of the situation in Syria and its environs, as well as the objectives of the fight against IS and other terrorist groups."
More paranoia about a growing Russian “presence” in Syria was caused this week by Alex Fishman’s article in Ynet News titled: “Russian jets in Syrian skies.” Fishman alleged that Russia has begun its military intervention in Syria, deploying an aerial force to fight the Islamist rebels. Yet when RT reached out to inquire about the article’s “anonymous”, quote-less source, no answer was given.
When asked earlier this week, the spokesman Mark Toner could not provide any additional insight about the “reports” the US State Department considers so worrying
“We’ve seen various press reports, as you said, that Russia may be deploying military personnel or aircraft to Syria. I can say we’re monitoring that very closely; we’re looking into it. We’re in touch with our partners in the region to try to get more information,” Toner said. ”We’re unclear what these might be intended for or whether this is actually happening.”