Western double standards hit Russia's Syrian efforts

Aleppo, Syria © Mahmoud Hebbo
On the one hand the US State Department has criticized Russia for the construction of an air base in Syria, and on the other the France’s announcement it will carry out air strikes against ISIS in Syria gets no criticism from the US, says political analyst Chris Bambery.

The US has reiterated that it will not cooperate with the Syrian President in fighting against Islamic State. State Department spokesperson John Kirby, also said Washington will pursue its policy to see Bashar Al-Assad step down as the Syrian leader.

Meantime Russia's president has been urging other countries to set aside "double standards and selfishness,” and to unite in defeating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

READ MORE: Blame Assad: The world according to State Department

RT: Do you think the Western nations can set aside “geopolitical ambitions” to stop the war in Syria, as Vladimir Putin suggested?

Chris Bambery: We are getting mixed messages, especially from the US. The US State Department has criticized Russia for the construction of this air base in Syria, for the supply of arms to the Syrian army. But I have to say that the criticism is rather more muted than that given about the situation in Ukraine. If you compare it – much more muted in terms of that. So clearly at one level Americans have got some understanding that the Russians are intervening to help in the fight against IS by supplying these weapons, by building up a base for supply lines, and so on. On the other hand as well – another mixed message - the French government has now announced they will be carrying out drone strikes. This of course gets no criticism whatsoever from the US, it gets the thumbs up of approval. So these are different messages here.

What gradually goes unreported as well is that Moscow has been attempting to open up dialogue between the Assad regime and the Western-backed opposition, the non-jihadist opposition. There have been some talks which Putin has encouraged. It was also revealed in the British media that three years ago Moscow proposed similar deals – a deal whereby potentially Assad could have stood down and a new coalition government involving a Baath party could have been formed, as a solution. The Americans and the British rejected that, because they believed they were on the verge of over throwing Assad. So what the Russian are doing here is rather more complex than what the Western media is also indicating. They are intervening, yes, they help Assad, but they are also trying to find a political solution to the civil war in Syria.    

READ MORE: 'If you are worried about refugees, stop supporting terrorists' - Assad interview   

RT: France said that it would determine what IS targets it will bomb. Why is it fine for Western nations to drop bombs in Syria, but not for Russia to get involved?

CB: Because France is a very loyal ally along with the UK of America and therefore there is no real disapproval of French action in Syria, or in Africa or elsewhere where its military is involved. Whereas Russia, we know there is increasing almost a Cold War atmosphere between Washington and Moscow, with the Americans really ratcheting up the sanctions and so on. So there is a kind of double standard here. But I think as well it’s obvious that airstrikes alone are not enough. Airstrikes are providing, for instance the Kurds have been fighting, close cooperation between air support and ground troops can bring about some success, but just on their own airstrikes are not going to deal with a very highly mobile enemy which is not going to concentrate its forces in one place just to suit the Americans, the French or the British. Therefore, to fight Daesh there has to be some effective ground force troops and as that package reveals, where is that going to come from? The so-called Western opposition forces are not that effective in terms of troops on the ground. They’re not talking about it. So what are you left with? The Kurds, yes; the Syrian army, who else is there? In this situation, it’s right to say there also has to be a political solution and there have to be discussions between the Western-backed opposition and the regime which is what as I understand Vladimir Putin has been trying to broker.

RT: At the same time Russia's being painted in the mainstream media as the nation escalating the Syrian conflict. How much of that is true?

CB: No, the Syrians have always been a close ally of Russia going right away back to the communist days. Russia has a naval base - which everyone knows – in Syria, it supplies the Assad regime with weapons, it is supplying weapons and it’s building up its infrastructure, an airfield - effectively from what we can make out - in Syria to provide those supplies. This doesn’t seem that surprising. The Assad regime has suffered some serious reverses in recent weeks, but the Russians are not prepared to see IS take control of even larger sways of Syria and they are intervening, but they are not intervening militarily, they are not launching airstrikes, they are intervening to back up Assad.

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, Syria. © Stringer

US ‘micromanages’ attacks on IS, poor results provoke frustration among allies

Gregory R. Copley, editor of Defense & Foreign Affairs, suggests that the Syrian conflict is a war that is externally generated and sponsored predominantly by Turkey which has ambitions to get Assad out of Syria and to remove Iran’s influence in Syria.

RT: The US is now blaming the Assad regime for allowing extremists to get into Syria. Is that how you see it?

Gregory R. Copley: Not at all. In fact we’ve consistently reported from the ground, from inside sources there that the uprising against the Assad government was externally sponsored, predominantly by Turkey backed by Qatar, at that time by Saudi Arabia, and supported by the Obama White House. This is an externally generated war; there is no question about it. What is significant is that the continuation of this war to remove President [Bashar] Assad has generated the refugees. Most of them have flown through Turkey and are then being pushed into Europe by the Turkish government. So this is quite a significant strategic development, and Turkey is the cornerstone of this and yet it is supported by the US. The clear answer to resolving the war against Islamic State is to curtail Turkey’s support for the groups which make up Islamic State and for the IS’s direct contacts with the Turkish government itself.

READ MORE: Putin: ISIS has designs on Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, endangers Europe & Russia

RT: Why is it that the US considered Assad a partner in getting rid of chemical weapons, but now the Syrian government is not a partner in fighting ISIL? Why is that?

GC: Well, the US has achieved what it has set out to achieve, which is basically to get a deal with Iran over nuclear weapons, so the Obama White House could claim a major international deal. That is more or less under its belt. The US is reverting to its policy wanting to support Turkish ambitions in the region which is likely to get Assad out of Syria. That would also, by the way, get rid of Iran’s influence in Syria, and Iran’s access to the Mediterranean. The US-Turkish relationship, which is increasingly under attack even in Washington DC by virtually all people knowledgeable in the area, is none-the-less a cornerstone of the Obama White House’s approach to the region.

RT: America is blaming the Assad government for its own failure to exterminate Islamic State terror, isn’t it?

GC: Absolutely. The US, the White House particularly, micromanages the attacks on IS to the point where airstrikes are doing far less good than they should be able to do. This causes an enormous amount of frustration among US allies who are trying to support the war against IS. They say they are being restricted in IS targets they can attack and basically have complained that the Turkish-led or Turkish requested airspace denial program… was against the Syrian government, and not against IS itself.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.