US Sending Mixed Signals on Russia’s Strikes in Syria

Some Officials 'Welcome' Involvement as Others Condemn It

Russia’s launching of airstrikes against ISIS and other rebel factions in Syria has become a popular topic of discussion for US officials, and indeed a slew of public figures have tried to get their stamp on the official narrative with public statements on the matter.

There’s a disconcerting lack of consistency among US comments on the matter, however, and even within individual US governmental agencies there seem to be a fairly broad array of conflicting statements, with some expressing concerns about the “mixed signals” the US is sending on the matter.

Secretary of State John Kerry is perhaps the most glaring culprit, at times warning of “grave concerns” about Russian involvement and insisting that the US welcomes any Russian efforts to fight ISIS within the same speech. In another speech he accused Russia of “siding with Hezbollah” and said Putin was making Russia a target for Sunni terror.

Other officials have sought to avoid a formal stance but predicted that whatever Russia’s aims in Syria, they were “doomed” to failure, though some analysts suggested that the White House privately hoped Russia would succeed where they were failing to get them off the hook on the ISIS war.

US officials were mostly consistent in condemning the possibility of Russian involvement in Syria before the airstrikes began, but since then there have been many conflicting accounts, and a lot of officials who were previously condemning Russia’s calls for unity suddenly talking  up the notion of a secular unified Syria fighting against ISIS.

The Pentagon has been bashing Russia on the matter, with Ash Carter condemning Russia’s military as “unprofessional” for the way they notified the US ahead of their airstrikes, while the White House suggested they had no problem at all with it, and saw Russia’s moves as consistent with their long-standing position of backing the Assad government.

It’s unusual for the US and Russia to both be militarily involved in the same country, and the US opposition to any serious coordination  has many fearing that it’s going to complicate things. While this seems to be a source of some US condemnation of Russia’s involvement, it should be noted that Russia had been calling for an information-sharing pact on the ISIS war, and other efforts to limit the risks of conflicting interests, and those offers have been spurned.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.