露のシリア空爆 「イスラム国」掃討は名目か

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Are Russian airstrikes in Syria targeting ISIL in name only?
露のシリア空爆 「イスラム国」掃討は名目か

Russia’s full-scale use of military force in Syria has heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, and the standoff is becoming increasingly entrenched.

Russia has started expanding its military operations against armed antigovernment forces opposed to the administration of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Russian attacks were conducted based on a request from Assad’s government.

Since the end of September, in addition to conducting airstrikes for more than one week, Moscow also has fired cruise missiles from vessels stationed about 1,500 kilometers away in the Caspian Sea.

More than 90 percent of the Russian targets have reportedly been moderate, pro-U.S. and Europe rebel groups. These attacks have apparently killed and injured many civilians, including children.

Russia has concentrated its airstrikes in western Syria near Tartus, home to Russia’s only naval port in the Middle East and a stronghold of the Assad government.

Russia claims the objective of its attacks is to wipe out the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant(ISIL) extremist group. However, it is obvious that this offensive aims to support the weakened Assad government and protect Russia’s own national interests. It is a self-serving action.

There have also been reports that Russia will send “volunteer soldiers” to Syria. Russia appears poised to fight against Syrian antigovernment forces by working closely with units from Iran — a sworn friend of Syria and Shiite groups from Iraq and other nations.

This Shiite-oriented strategy will do nothing but whip up a backlash from Sunni groups and their backers, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and inflame the sectarian conflict. The risk that this civil war could develop into a proxy war between Russia and Syria’s neighboring nations cannot be overlooked.

Friction with U.S.

Russia’s predecessor, the Soviet Union, intervened in the nearby nation of Afghanistan. About nine years of fighting there battered Russia’s economy and was a factor in the Soviet Union’s collapse.

The United States and Europe have imposed sanctions on Russia in response to the problem concerning Ukraine, and Russia’s economy is on the decline. Russia’s strategy in the Middle East is certain to further sap its strength. We think this is a foolish move that disregards the lessons of its operations in Afghanistan.

U.S. President Barack Obama warned Russia that its offensive in Syria will suck Moscow into a “quagmire.”

The United States has stepped up its airstrikes against ISIL positions and is supplying weapons to moderate rebel forces as it seeks to retain leadership over the situation in Syria. However, the impact of these steps is unknown.

The United States has been reluctant to get more involved in Syria and is flatly refusing to cooperate with Russia on this issue.

Nevertheless, their interests coincide on the point of seeking to deplete the strength of ISIL. It would be significant if the United States and Russia could coordinate their strategies to prevent accidental clashes and narrow down the targets of their attacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stance of easily resorting to military means is becoming an element of instability in the international community.

Hostility between Washington and Moscow is escalating and the world is sliding toward a situation that could be called a new kind of Cold War. This will unavoidably have implications for Japan’s diplomacy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2015)

by kiyoshimat | 2015-10-10 09:36 | 英字新聞

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