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Obama’s decision to allow strikes to back Syrian opposition raises eyebrows

August 03, 2015, 16:47 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

MOSCOW, August 3. /TASS/. US President Barack Obama’s decision to empower the US Air Force to furnish support for the "moderate Syrian opposition" with what was termed as defensive fire is aimed not so much against the terrorist Islamic State as at President Bashar Assad’s government in Syria, polled experts told TASS.

US President Barack Obama on Monday permitted the use of the US Air Force for the protection of opposition groups in Syria, should they be attacked by the government troops or other groups, the Wall Street Journal says.

The United States last May launched a program for training Syrian rebels prepared to go to fight against the Islamic State. Washington hopes to train 5,400 men a year. In the meantime, US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter has recognized that the program is already way behind time. At the moment a mere 60 men are taking part in the it.

According to the president of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, of the 60 Syrian rebels US instructors have trained at camps in Turkey 54 have been enlisted in the yet-to-be formed battalion. Syrian government troops have taken prisoner the emissary, dispatched to Syria for recruiting potential trainees. "A large group of the rebels has left the camps to continue the struggle against the Assad regime. Many of them have joined the Islamic State. Obama made a statement the United States would provide defensive fires to support the Syrian opposition for the sole reason he would like to save face in the wake of the utter failure of the program for training Syrian rebels and the arrest of the recruiter," Satanovsky told TASS.

"The US president had to offer some sort of explanation to the taxpayers why a tiny 54 men have been trained while the allocated budget money was enough to train 5,400 - a hundred times more. This explains why he came out with the statement the US Air Force would be attacking the facilities that might endanger Syrian opposition groups. It should be remembered that US drones had been attacking Islamic State positions before. In other words, Obama’s statement is nothing but a smoke screen expected to camouflage the political failure.

A member of the science council at Moscow’s Carnegie Centre, lecturer at the Moscow state institute of international relations MGIMO, Aleksei Malashenko, believes that Obama’s latest decision is a rather doubtful move adding a great deal to the general commotion in the Middle East.

"Instead of adopting constructive decisions to counter the threats the expansion of the Islamic State entails the US president has expressed a poorly hidden intention to send US warplanes to bomb Bashar Assad’s supporters. Nobody knows if the Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces will be able to keep the situation in the country under control if and when the Assad regime falls. It is not ruled out that Syria’s five-year-long civil war and struggle for power will go more ferocious," Malashenko told TASS.

"From the standpoint of struggle against the Islamic State joint efforts by the United States and Turkey to create a buffer zone on the border with Syria look doubtful, too. Ankara is confronted not only with IS terrorists as with Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants and it puts pressures on Bashar Assad in Syria. In fact, it has three front-lines to keep an eye on. In other words, the White House and its allies in the Middle East are in great confusion," Malashenko said.

"I believe that today’s meeting of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Doha, Qatar, will help identify a coordinated approach to suppressing the Islamic State, which is a common adversary for Moscow, Washington and Riyadh," Malashenko said.

"By and large all leading political players around the world are interested in the settlement of the situation in the Middle East - not only in Syria and Iraq, but also in Libya and Yemen, and in the implementation of the Iranian nuclear program agreement. Cooperation by Russia and the United States here is quite possible. Over-estimating chances of such success would be wrong, but steps should be taken for establishing such cooperation to everybody’s benefit, and this is precisely what the Kremlin and the White House have been trying to do," he concluded.

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors