Russians claim US 'pretending' to fight ISIS in Syria

The Russian Defense Ministry is claiming that U.S. allied forces are only "pretending" to fight ISIS in Syria, leaving the bulk of the fighting to the Syrian army.

Fox News:

The Russian Defense Ministry said the U.S.-led coalition has reduced its air strikes in the region when Syrian forces started to make gains in Deir al-Zor Province in Syria.

"Everyone sees that the U.S.-led coalition is pretending to fight Islamic State, above all in Iraq, but continuing to allegedly fight Islamic State in Syria actively for some reason," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia's defense ministry, said, according to the report.

"The actions of the Pentagon and the coalition demand an explanation. Is their change of tack a desire to complicate as much as they can the Syrian army's operation, backed by the Russian air force, to take back Syrian territory to the east of the Euphrates?," asked Konashenkov. "Or is it an artful move to drive Islamic State terrorists out of Iraq by forcing them into Syria and into the path of the Russian air force's pinpoint bombing?"

This is not the first time Konashenkov question the U.S. motive in region. He accused the U.S. of turning a blind eye and effectively providing cover to the Islamic State group's operations in an area in Syria that is under U.S. control.

The people at the defense ministry are trying to spin events on the ground to make the Russians look good and the U.S. look bad.  But are they right?  Certainly, during the Obama administration, our efforts in Iraq were hindered by strict rules of engagement that led to a bombing campaign that was less than intense.  But this changed under Trump, and the difference is like night and day.  The Iraqi army has made excellent progress in ejecting ISIS from the country, largely thanks to a stepped up bombing campaign by the U.S.

But Syria has always been a more complicated theater of war for U.S. forces.  First and foremost, Russian and Syrian air forces are dominating the skies over Syria.  There have already been several near misses between Russian and U.S. jets, so for the most part, we've been steering clear of Russian ground support operations for the Syrian army.

But U.S. planes have not been idle.  We've been supporting the Kurdish Peshmerga and a few Arab militias in their efforts to defeat ISIS.  The problem is that there are so many factions fighting for and against President Assad that it's hard to support the fight against ISIS in Syria without also aiding the Russians, President Assad, and Hezb'allah, or worse, extremist Islamist militias.

Admittedly, this is a tightrope that the Russians have been trying to exploit for propaganda purposes.  Russia's "pinpoint" bombing has killed thousands of Syrian civilians as well as rebels backed by the U.S. and the Gulf States, so the Russians' bellyaching about a lack of effort by U.S.-backed forces rings hollow.

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