by Gordon M. Hahn
The U.S. mainstream media continues to lie about what Putin has said are his reasons for intervening militarily in Syria and about the targets its air campaign is taking out. The first lie is that Putin said he was not intervening to prop up the Assad regime but rather to fight the Islamic State (IS or ISIS, ISIL, Daesh). He never said these things.
In fact, Putin looked into the eyes of the American people and the world through Charlie Rose and his 27 September interview on CBS and stated Russian had intervened militarily in Syria in order to back the Bashar Assad regime against all jihadi and other extremist groups:
Charlie Rose: So you would like to join the United States in the fight against ISIS? That’s part of why you’re there. Others think that while that may be part of your goal, you’re trying to save the Assad administration because they’ve been losing ground and the war has not been going well for them. And you’re there to rescue them.
President Putin: Well, you’re right. We support the legitimate government of Syria. And it’s my deep belief that any actions to the contrary in order to destroy the legitimate government will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region or in other regions, for instance in Libya where all the state institutions are disintegrated. We see a similar situation in Iraq. And there is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism. But, at the same time, urging them to engage in positive dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform (www.bing.com/videos/search?q=charlie+rose+putin+interview&view=detail&mid=2FE80C8701CAF34DB02F2FE80C8701CAF34DB02F&FORM=VIRE1).
Moreover, Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly stated that they support negotiations between the few moderates among the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime, and Moscow has tried several times to mediate between moderate opposition and Assad, holding two sets of talks with them in Moscow.
But no matter. It is apparent that the U.S. media and its sponsors believe that the only way Russia can be outmaneuvered on the world stage is to lie. No longer does the West — including and perhaps in particular Washington — have the confidence that it can maintain leadership in the world based on the attractiveness of its way of life and a commitment to ‘not live by lies,’ as one great Russian writer and Soviet dissident once implored.
The second lie is about the targets the Russian air force (RAF) is hitting and is two-pronged. One prong of the second lie is that the RAF is not hitting ISIS. Numerous Western sources have reported that it has. The second prong of the second lie is that the RAF is not hitting jihadists but rather so-called ‘moderate’ U.S.-backed forces.
The culprits in this falsification campaign although, many and varied, are the usual types. One enthusiastic participant has been The Washington Post’s ‘Vox’ website. See http://www.vox.com/2015/9/30/9423229/russia-bombing-isis-syria and www.vox.com/2015/10/7/9471271/russia-syria-bombing-map.
Bloomberg pundit, Leonid Bershidsky also got into the act. Bershidsky is one of the less incompetent of the generalist genre – the brand of pundit/journalist which seems to know much about many things but usually know little about anything. Such writers are generally not the best of sources for detail and accuracy. Their work is usually laden with false assumptions, agendas, and lots of ‘attitude.’ Bershidsky is more reliable than most and writes some interesting things, but this time he seems to have been swayed by the maddening crowd of incompetent ones.
On October 2nd Bershidsky actually went farther than the usual distortions about Russia’s military intervention in Syria. He wrote: “Russia vehemently denies that its forces in Syria are bombing any group other than the so-called Islamic State” (www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-10-02/what-maps-say-about-russia-s-syria-aims). The fact is no Russian official has ever made any such claim. But what the heck; this is American journalism. Moreover, Bershidsky cites an article to support this claim, but that article states quite the opposite: “Russian forces are targeting only Islamic State, al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front and other terrorist groups, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said” (www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-02/seven-nations-demand-russia-stop-attacks-on-syrian-opposition). Again, hey, what the heck.
Putin, his generals, and other officials have all said Russia is hitting all extremists — Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Jeish al Muhajrin wal-Ansar, and the Islamic Front, among others — not just IS. As I have written elsewhere on this site, the evidence shows that the Russians have hit all of these groups, including IS (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/10/01/russias-military-intervention-in-syria-update-attacks-against-isis-and-other-jihadists/). For evidence that the Russian air campaign has hit IS targets see the strikes in and around Raqqa indicated on the maps created by the organization Vox used as a source, the Institute for the Understandng of War, to claim Russia’s campaign had not done so.
See and compare: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=z4PF1SFiMPjQ.kFa_qMMdFl48 and
In the wake of the start of Russia’s attacks on IS, Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), and other jihadist groups, the respective leaders of JN and IS, Abu Mohamed al-Jolani and Abubakr al-Baghdadi, called on their allied jihadi groups in the North Caucasus and other Muslims in Russia to step up jihad and carry out terrorist attacks to avenge the Russian air campaign (http://news.yahoo.com/syrias-al-nusra-calls-jihadists-caucasus-attack-russia-075058520.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma). Why would they to do that, if Putin was not hitting them?
Thus, WaPo, Vox, Bershidsky, Bloomberg and a myriad of others have created the false narrative whereby Putin is lying about fighting the Islamic State (IS) and is hiding his support for the Syria’s Bashar Assad regime.
The Western media and think tank foibles and follies just keep rolling along.
Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation. He is also Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View and Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and publishes the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report (IIPER) at CSIS at http://csis.org/program/russia-and-eurasia-program. Dr. Hahn has been a visiting scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. (2011-2013), the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. (1995 and 2005), and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, San Francisco State, and St. Petersburg State (Russia) Universities.