Homeland Security Network Blog
Nearly 80% of Russia's Syria strikes don't target ISIS
Jack Stubbs, Reuters
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Almost 80 percent of Russia's declared targets in Syria have been in areas not held by Islamic State, a Reuters analysis of Russian Defence Ministry data shows, undermining Moscow's assertions that its aim is to defeat the group.
The majority of strikes, according to the analysis, have instead been in areas held by other groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which include al Qaeda offshoots but also fighters backed by Washington and its allies.
Defence ministry statements of targets hit by the Russian Air Force and an online archive of Russian military maps show Russia has hit 64 named locations since President Vladimir Putin ordered the first round of air strikes three weeks ago.
Of those targets, a maximum of 15 were in areas held by Islamic State, according to a survey of locations of the rival forces in Syria compiled by the Institute for the Study of War.
"If you look at the map, you can easily understand that they are not fighting Islamic State but other opposition groups," said Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based defense columnist and deputy editor of online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal.
The data supports assertions from Washington and its NATO allies that Russia's intervention in Syria, its biggest military deployment abroad since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is designed to prop up Assad, who flew to Moscow on Tuesday to thank Putin for his support.
Moscow's other possible motives could be to maintain a strategic foothold in the Middle East and showcase itself as a global military power at a time when relations with the West have sunk to a post-Soviet low over the crisis in Ukraine.