Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev confirmed Russia will continue to bomb so-called “moderate” rebels in Syria, despite pleading from President Barack Obama to follow the ceasefire.
Medvedev said in an interview with Time Magazine he sees no reason why rebels running around with automatic weapons near Aleppo should receive any kind of immunity. They should be targeted along with Islamic State militants, he said, especially because it’s almost impossible to distinguish U.S.-designated moderate rebels from more extreme elements.
“So it is very difficult for us to tell the difference between the very moderate ones and the not-so-moderate ones, the good from the bad,” Medvedev said in Munch.
Medvedev’s remarks completely throw into question the seriousness of the Syria peace treaty, which was officially signed Thursday.
For Medvedev, the strikes will stop when peace comes back to Syria. A lack of clearly stipulated conditions for when airstrikes become unnecessary means the war is likely to continue for a long time. Even Syrian President Bashar Assad, several hours before the peace deal came about, said he intends to take all of Syria back.
Medvedev did say the rebels need to sit down with Assad and negotiate some kind of solution. The problem, of course, is that who belongs at the negotiation table has yet to be determined.
“We would like Syria to stay within its historic borders as a unified country,” Medvedev told Time. “None of us need another Libya, which broke up into several pieces, nor do we need the kind of chaos in which various territories are under the control of field commanders or, to put it plainly, bandits, regardless what religious rhetoric they use as cover.”
U.S. objectives are held hostage by Russian activity, as Russia now seems to have seized the position as the most important player in Syria.
“There’s recognition that the Russians now dominate the agenda in Syria and the Western approach is to yield to Russia,” Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa director at Eurasia Group, told Bloomberg.
In full acknowledgment of that position, Medvedev said the U.S. shouldn’t even think of sending in ground troops to support rebel forces because of how badly it failed in Afghanistan. He also added the U.S.’s Arab allies should also stay out of Syria, if backing opposition forces is the goal.
Obama asked Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday to put a stop to the airstrikes, but his requests will likely fall on deaf ears.
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