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Defense Sec Carter Blames Russia For Fueling Civil War In Syria

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter unequivocally blamed Russia for fueling the civil war in Syria, adding that Russia’s strategy against ISIS is “deeply mistaken.”

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday morning in his first interview since the Friday Paris attacks, Carter said that Russia started out on the wrong foot by supporting the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Supporting Assad’s regime only serves to intensify the four-and-a-half-year-long civil war. This civil war is responsible for creating the extremism ISIS needs to sustain its operations.

Carter suggested that the Russians should abandon their strategy and adopt a U.S. approach.

“So if the Russians change their strategy, their approach, to something that’s more like our approach, which is do fight ISIL and work on a political transition in which Assad goes and the structures of government in Syria are sustained so that some decency can be restored to that place for the — for the people, that’s what we have been in favor of,” Carter said.

It’s not too late for Russia to make a positive contribution to the fight against ISIS, added Carter.

Joe Scarborough, host of Morning Joe, pressed Carter regarding reticence within the Pentagon of sharing intelligence and technology know-how with Russians to coordinate attacks against ISIS.

“Well, that’s understandable,” Carter said.

“Well it is,” Scarborough interrupted.

“In view of the history, but in all seriousness, you ask can we work with the Russians? Well, I mean it’s possible, just possible that in time, we will be able to do that,” Carter continued.

The U.S. has actively been trying to persuade Russia away from its alliance with Iran, mostly because Iran strongly supports Assad. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has insisted that toppling Assad’s regime cannot be a precondition to the negotiations. A map of Russian airstrike activity indicates that many of its sorties have targeted rebel groups far more than ISIS.

Carter said that the barbarism of ISIS has forced a response mainly in the form of airstrikes, which occur every single day. He also said that the U.S. has shifted tactics to striking against oil truckers, in order to deprive ISIS of much-needed revenues needed to keep their war engine and welfare state running.

Scarborough pushed back a little, noting that many of the jets sent out on sorties come back without deploying their ordinances because of the incredibly strict rules of engagement. Even in the strikes against the oil trucks, F-15s had to swoop down in advance and drop leaflets warning those on the ground to abandon the area. (RELATED: US Launches Mass Airstrikes Against Oil Trucks To Cut Off ISIS Revenue)

Carter responded by saying that the Pentagon is prepared to loosen the rules of engagement, as evidenced by the recent oil strikes.

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