'Russia is the only truly effective fighting force in Syria' - Virginia Senator

Russian soldiers distribute bread to Palmyra residents. © Mikhail Voskresenskiy
The Russian expeditionary force has been vastly more harmful to Islamic State forces than the US coalition. The US coalition is sort of on again, off again in its effectiveness, Virginia Senator Richard Black told RT.

Washington and Moscow say they will continue working on a ceasefire in Syria after chairing a crisis meeting of the Syria Support Group in New York. But the two sides entered the talks amid hostile rhetoric as one top US general even raised the possibility of war with Russia.

Some politicians in the US have advocated on behalf of a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, but it would only apply to Russian and Syrian aircraft, not the coalition air force.

RT: Are you surprised that no consensus has been reached between Moscow and Washington?

Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District: I know there was a lot of hope initially that the agreement would be successful. I know that the Syrians were excited about it; I know that the Russians were also. But very shortly after the agreement went into effect the US launched a very intense bombing attack against the Syrian Army at Deir ez-Zor. This is an area where the lines were very static, they had not moved very quickly and planes launched an hour-long attack against the Syrian Army. And as John Kerry recently said: “The US jets conduct their strikes with exceptional precision, no other country can match.”

We knew where we were striking; we killed 62 Syrian soldiers, brave innocent men. And somehow we have brushed this aside. And now we are worried about the resupplies that we are attempting to send to the Aleppo pocket, which is controlled by Al-Nusra, which is Al-Qaeda in Syria, together with some of their associated allies. I was rather stunned to discover the discussion before the Senate international relations committee in which there was talk of a ‘no-fly zone’.

RT: Don’t you think that the imposing of a ‘no-fly zone’ for Russian and Syrian airplanes would be one-sided?

RB: I would agree with that. The Russian expeditionary force has been vastly more harmful to ISIS than the US coalition. The US coalition is sort of on again, off again. Clearly, the US coalition deliberately permitted ISIS to seize the city of Palmyra; clearly the coalition deliberately allowed 2,000 oil tankers to carry oil across the Turkish border. And it was Russia that stopped the oil trade. So, Russia is really the only truly effective force in Syria…

'No-fly zone could trigger war'

RT then spoke with John Graham, former diplomat at US embassy in Libya, Director of Giraffe Heroes Project, told RT.

RT: Are you surprised that Moscow and Washington have not reached any agreement on Syria? Or is it to be expected given all the mudslinging?

John Graham: No, I am not surprised and although I had hopes that the September 9th agreement would continue, as did Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, what he said about it being a “very dirty game”, was true. And he was also true when he said we “shouldn’t overreact” to recent events which now make that ceasefire so problematical. I’d like to come a bit about what happened in the US Senate Committee because that scenario of overreaction has been really important and it can have a lot of influence on American public opinion. It is important to understand that in the US - and in the world - we are dealing with a kind of an outrage over what is going on in Syria. Beginning with the child washing up on a European beach, the little boy in Aleppo and now the bombing of an aid convoy, a bombing which by the way nearly all Americans assume was, if not conducted by Russians, was conducted by a Syrian air force where the Russians had perhaps the power to stop it and didn’t. So, there we are.

The [Senate] hearing took place in this climate of escalating fear and tension. The second thing I want to say, having worked on Capitol Hill, is that your readers have to understand that these hearings are just that. America is an open society; people say what they want to say. So, we had our top military people, our Secretary of Defense and our Chief of General Staff, and they were asked about a ‘no-fly zone’ over Syria. The idea of a ‘no-fly zone’ has been tossed around in American circles and in the UN for over a year. So, it is not a new idea. These military people simply said the truth that in their military opinion trying to impose a ‘no-fly zone’ without the agreement of the Russians would start a war, and it would. Because if we fly our planes and the Russians didn’t want to stop flying their planes, and all those planes are flown by testosterone-driven 25-year-olds, someone is going to make a stupid move and a war could very well start.    

That’s all our military people were saying, that that’s a danger and they are absolutely right about that. It doesn’t mean that they we are going to do it, no. And it is really important for the Russian people and for the world to understand and to no overreact to what was said at these hearings. The role of these people, these two gentlemen before Congress, was to provide advice and opinion, not to make policy.

READ MORE: US-led coalition must prove it really wants to separate Al-Nusra Front from rebels – Lavrov

RT: Why should it be only the Russians and Syrians grounding their planes when the US has been guilty of hitting the wrong targets? Shouldn't it ground its jets?

JG: Practically speaking, it is an impossibility. The Russians would never agree to a one-sided ‘no-fly zone’. I don’t think I’d put much credence in that at all. It is just simply not going to happen. It will happen only in the context of a general peace agreement in which - as Mr. Lavrov pointed out - “there is no real military solution to that; there has to be a political solution”. And if the ‘no-fly zone’ is agreed both by Russia and the US coalition would make a lot of sense. Try to impose it now, the Russians clearly won’t agree, is a nonstarter.

 

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