Any potential U.S. military intervention in Syria would result in “terrible tectonic shifts” across the region, warned the Russian Defense Ministry Saturday.
Russia’s warning appeared to come in response to news that the Obama administration is having “staff level” discussions on potentially tougher measures against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, including potential military strikes. The ministry’s statement went on to warn that removing Assad would leave a power vacuum in Syria, thus causing “terrible tectonic shifts.”
The Russian response stopped short of direct threat, but the timing of the statement reflects the growing tensions between the U.S. and Russia. Syrian and Russian aircraft continue to wantonly bomb civilian centers under the guise of fighting radical Islamic terrorism. U.S. aircraft are also operating in Syrian airspace, in this case against the Islamic State, adding to the potential for a conflict between Russian and U.S. forces.
President Obama’s continued unwillingness to take tougher action against Assad, and frequently broken agreements and promises throughout the five-year conflict, frustrates many Syrian rebel groups.
“As U.S. officials have repeatedly pointed out, the U.S. has no current legal framework to directly target regime forces unless in self-defense,” wrote the Soufan Group, an international strategic consultancy group. in a briefing Monday. “This legal distinction is lost on rebel groups that see the world’s most powerful air force targeting the so-called Islamic State, but failing to protect the civilians of Aleppo.”
The rebel frustration is causing many to join forces with various terrorist groups, including Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), formerly known as the Nusra Front, which has ties to al-Qaida. Various rebel groups coordinated with JFS in order to break Assad’s siege on the Syrian city of Aleppo in early August.
Russian and Syrian forces continue to relentlessly bomb both rebel and civilian positions. A proposed ceasefire cobbled together by Secretary of State John Kerry in September failed within hours of being announced, his second failed attempt to alleviate the crisis this year.
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