‘Huge propaganda war’ going on to discredit Russian anti-terrorist efforts in Syria
RT:We’ve heard initially there that the Pentagon was accusing Russia of targeting rebel positions instead of ISIS, although the Pentagon did not provide any specific evidence to back up these claims. What is your take on what was said today by the Pentagon?
Max Abrahms: There is absolutely a propaganda war that is going on. Those who oppose the Russian involvement in Syria have been arguing that the Russians are not sincere [about] why they are there. Specifically the Russians will be useless against the Islamic State and that they are really only there to prop-up the Assad regime who is being attacked, not so much by the Islamic State, but by the more moderate rebel forces, the kind that the US is trying to build up.
And Russia, by contrast, is saying the exact opposite. The emphasis is that how the strikes demonstrated real precision, that they have been surgical and that they have been directed against Islamic State infrastructure. And so yes, there is this huge propaganda war going on to try to discredit Russia, or to try to show that it really is an important bulwark against the Islamic State.
RT:And it is certainly not just these words coming from the Pentagon, certainly what he said was picked up by the Western media. What is your interpretation on what was said today in the press that you read and the TV channels that you have watched?
MA: The American public, I think, is shifting really noticeably against Russian involvement, I think. I think there are growing concerns about the Assad government. I’ve seen a lot of negative reporting. Today was of course the first day that Russia directly participated in military attacks. So Russian is being discredited and branded by saying it cannot be a partner in a war against the Islamic State, but is rather there to extend its geopolitical reach and to prop-up its friend, the Assad regime, and to simultaneously weaken the moderate rebel alternative while basically poking the eye of the US and embarrassing the Obama administration which is increasingly being seen as spineless.
RT:Isn’t it strange though, I know you’ve put forward this argument about why people may think that Russia is now in the wrong, but surely there is a common enemy here that is very clear? And the fact that Russia is targeting them, surely must be a simple argument to understand?
MA: Well, don’t get me wrong, I’m way out of step with most analysts in the US on this topic. I don’t represent the American people. I had an op-ed in the New York Times over a year ago where I urged Washington to work closely with Damascus, including working with Moscow to beat back the Islamic State. So, I’m very much in favor of this sort of alliance, because I think the Islamic State poses the greatest threat, certainly to the West.
RT: How do you think this will play out? Do you think that Russia’s involvement now will complicate the situation in Syria?
MA: I actually think it will be helpful in terms of beating back the Islamic State. Many people in the US emphasize that the Islamic State is not the only target, that there are other guys, like the Al Nusra for example, the al Qaeda affiliate there who are being attacked. But frankly I don't really think it is that big of a difference.
At the end of the day these guys are all Islamist terrorists, whether they are ISIS guys, or whether they are Al Nusra guys. And I think Russia will be quite helpful in rolling back all of these different Islamic groups which pose a direct threat to the West.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.