Lavrov: Unclear what exactly US is doing in Syria & why results so insignificant

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov © Maxim Shemetov
The Russian Foreign Ministry has questioned the effectiveness of the US-led year-long air campaign in Syria, saying it’s unclear “why the results of so many combat sorties are so insignificant.” Failing to curb ISIS, the US has now “adjusted” its program.

“We have very few specifics which could explain what the US is exactly doing in Syria and why the results of so many combat sorties are so insignificant,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian channel NTV. “With, as far as I know, 25,000 sorties they [US-led air campaign] could have smashed the entire [country of] Syria into smithereens,” the minister noted.

Lavrov questioned the Western coalition's objectives in their air campaign, stressing that Washington must decide whether its aim is to eliminate the jihadists or to use extremist forces to pursue its own political agenda.

“Maybe their stated goal is not entirely sincere? Maybe it is regime change?” Lavrov said, as he expressed doubts that weapons and munitions supplied by the US to the so-called “moderate Syrian opposition” will end up in terrorists’ hands.

“I want to be honest, we barely have any doubt that at least a considerable part of these weapons will fall into the terrorists’ hands,” Lavrov said.

American airlifters have reportedly dropped 50 tons of small arms ammunition and grenades to Arab groups fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in northern Syria. US officials assure concerned partis that the fighters have been screened and are really confronting IS.

"We do not want the events, when [some countries] not only cooperated with terrorists but plainly relied on them, to happen again,” Lavrov said, recalling that the French, for instance supplied weapons to anti-government forces in Libya in violation of a UN Security Council resolution.

Lavrov has called on the US to “transcend themselves” and decide what is more important, either “misguided self-esteem realization” or getting rid of the “greatest threat” that is challenging humanity.

Speaking about the American refusal to answer Russia’s calls to create a wider anti-ISIS coalition, Lavrov suggested that US reluctance is based on a number of “factors and causes.”

“It is probably not very nice [for them] to see how effective[ly] our military is working compared to the more than a year-long operations [of] the coalition created by the United States of America, which has carried out, in my estimates, about 60,000 sorties, half of which were supposed to be fighting missions, yet the positive results 'on the ground' are not visible," Lavrov said. "In contrast, Islamic State and other terrorist groups such as Al-Nusra, which is a branch of Al-Qaeda, only expanded its influence and territory in which they are ... truly creating a caliphate, organizing people's lives by [their] ... own laws.” 

On Tuesday, Washington ‘adjusted’ its controversial program of aiding the Syrian rebels, opting to vet commanders rather than individual fighters, and provide supplies instead of training.

“The train-and-equip program has changed, but it has not gone away. We’re still equipping moderate Syrian opposition fighters,” Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told the press.

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