Nobody can clearly define what 'moderate opposition' in Syria is - Kremlin spokesman

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While the West accuses the Russian Air Force of bombing the moderate rebel forces in Syria instead of Islamic State, no one has clearly defined what moderate opposition is, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said in an interview.

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“I don’t think anybody has yet explained what moderate opposition is, and Putin demonstrated quite active interest in the issue and asked in which way the moderate opposition was different from the immoderate opposition,” Dmitry Peskov told Rossiya 1 TV channel’s Sergey Brilyov.

Peskov added that while speaking to critics in the West, Putin mentioned things such as “the [bombed] wedding in Yemen.”

The discussion over what forces constitute moderate opposition in Syria also took place at the meeting of the Normandy Four in Paris on Friday, during which President Putin had one-on-one conversations with the French and German leaders.

Russia’s actions in Syria are absolutely transparent, Dmitry Peskov said, noting that alleged reports of Russia hitting targets other than Islamic State’s are part of ‘information warfare’.

“You can see for yourself what sort of games they play. There are known cases, when ‘first-hand’ information about airstrikes allegedly inflicted on ‘false targets’ emerged before fighter jets’ actual takeoff,” Peskov said, adding that in this case everything is “absolutely transparent and our Defense Ministry gives comprehensive information.”

US officials have themselves acknowledged it was hard to identify the “moderate Syrian opposition,” as was mentioned a year ago by US Vice President Joe Biden.

“We Americans think in every country in transition there is a Thomas Jefferson hiding beside some rock – or a James Madison beyond one sand dune. The fact of the matter is the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was – there was no moderate middle because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers – they are made up of people who in fact have ordinary elements of the middle class of that country,” Biden said at Harvard Kennedy School in October 2014.

In March 2015, former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford wrote in an article for Foreign Policy: “The Americans didn’t ramp up aid to the secular moderates when they needed it most.”

The assistance to moderate Syrian fighters used to be “small and erratic,” Ford said, so the moderate rebel fighters were forced “to compete against each other and to sometimes cooperate with al-Nusra Front,” thus scaring off “regime elements” hoping to negotiate a deal, “extending the war of attrition to the benefit of Islamic State.”

In March this year, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, Charles Lister, acknowledged the “vast majority of the Syrian insurgency has coordinated closely with Al-Qaeda since mid-2012 – and to great effect on the battlefield.”

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