Syria conflict: Russia defends air strikes

The Kremlin says it is acting on the request of the Syrian government to help combat IS militants – who have seized parts of Syria and Iraq – and other designated terrorist groups.
But the US and its allies fear the strikes have mainly targeted opponents of Russia’s ally, President Assad.
Mr Lavrov, speaking at the UN in New York, said Russia would fight IS and other terrorist groups including the al-Nusra Front – an al-Qaeda affiliate.
He said this position was the same as the US-led coalition which has been carrying out air strikes in Iraq and Syria for several months.
“We are not supporting anyone against their own people. We fight terrorism,” he said.
“As far as I understand it, the [US-led] coalition announced Isil (IS) and other associated groups as the enemy. And the coalition does the same as Russia does.”
Analysis by Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent
The Syrian government’s army may not be what it was, but in local terms it is still a force to be reckoned with.
Bolstered with new Russian equipment and now backed by Russian air power, it could hold its own against most of the opposition forces.
Russia does not have the elaborate intelligence gathering panoply of the US. But much of its targeting will be based upon tactical intelligence obtained from Syrian units on the ground.
This then is the key to Russia’s strategy. It is to consolidate the Assad regime, to relieve the pressure points and to ensure that its ally remains a factor in any future diplomatic settlement.
To this end – and there are strong indications of this even from Russia’s initial air strikes – Moscow will hit any opponents of the Syrian regime where necessary.


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