Confusion hangs over start of US, Russia military talks on Syria

The Obama administration, scrambling to respond to Russia’s air campaign over Syria and Iran’s increased involvement, launched talks Thursday with Moscow military officials amid mounting confusion over the airstrike targets and criticism on Capitol Hill — including one senator mocking the name of the so-called “deconfliction” talks.


“Unfortunately, it appears ‘deconfliction’ is merely an Orwellian euphemism for this Administration’s acceptance of Russia’s expanded role in Syria, and as a consequence, for Assad’s continued brutalization of the Syrian people,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.


The talks, held by video teleconference, came a day after Russian fighter jets began bombing in western Syria.


Russia claims it is targeting Islamic State militants with the strikes. But Defense Department officials say that doesn’t appear to be the case.


“We don’t believe that they struck ISIL targets, so that’s a problem,” military spokesman Col. Steve Warren, speaking from Baghdad, told reporters in a briefing on Thursday.


At the same time, Warren could not say exactly which groups Russia hit — whether they were Al Qaeda-aligned terrorists or opposition forces aligned with the U.S.


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