ZERO HEDGE

With the US having officially lost control of the narrative in Syria now that The Kremlin has called Washington’s bluff on the battle to eradicate ISIS and eliminate the Sunni extremist elements that threaten to wrest control of Syria from President Bashar al-Assad, the only remaining question after Russian lawmakers officially cleared the way for airstrikes was how long it would be before the Western media began shouting about Russian warplanes bombing targets that aren’t affiliated with ISIS.

As we reported earlier today, Moscow wasted no time in launching its first round of air raids.

In turn, the West wasted no time in contending that Russia is targeting areas that aren’t known to be strategically significant for ISIS. Here’s a look at two headlines which do a nice job of summarizing all of the rhetoric which you’re about to hear emanating ceaselessly from every corner of the Western world in the coming days and weeks:

  • U.S. IS CONCERNED RUSSIA’S INTENT IS PROTECTING ASSAD: KERRY
  • U.S. HAS ‘GRAVE CONCERNS’ IF RUSSIA STRIKES OUTSIDE ISIL AREAS

And here’s WSJ with a sneak peek at the new narrative which Washington will be working hard to refine:

Russian President Vladimir Putin inserted his country directly into Syria’s war Wednesday, as Russian forces launched their first airstrikes against what Moscow said were Islamic State targets in the Middle Eastern nation.

 

But Western leaders raised doubts about whether Russia really intended to take the fight to Islamic State, or merely broaden the Syrian regime’s offensive against a wide range of other opponents.

 

For the U.S., the Russian strikes add new questions about the role of Russian forces in Syria. “While we would welcome a constructive role by Russia in this effort, today’s [meeting in Baghdad] hardly seems indicative of that sort of role and will in no way alter our operations,” a U.S. official said.

 

Warplanes targeted Islamic State military hardware and weapons stores, a spokesman for Russia’s Ministry of Defense told official news agencies hours after Russian lawmakers approved a request by Mr. Putin to allow the use of force abroad.

 

Framing the attacks as part of a fight against terrorism, Mr. Putin said that Russia will support the Syrian army from the air, without any ground operations, for the duration of the Syrian offensive.

 

“The only real way to fight international terrorism…is to act pre-emptively. and not wait till they [terrorists] come to our home,” Mr. Putin said in televised comments. He called for antiterror cooperation with other states through the Russian coordination center in Baghdad.

 

The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported Wednesday that Russian airstrikes hit areas under Islamic State control in Homs and Hama provinces, including the cities of Al Rastan and Talbiseh, near the town of Salamiyah, and the villages of al-Za’faran, al-Humr Hills, Eidoun, Salamiyah and Deir Fol. The strikes had successfully targeted Islamic State, SANA said, without elaborating.

 

But with the exception of the area east of the town of Salamiyah in Hama province, none of the areas listed by the Syrian regime have a known presence of Islamic State fighters. They are largely dominated by relatively moderate rebel factions and Islamist groups like Ahrar al-Sham and the al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front.

Yes, “relatively moderate rebel factions like al-Qaeda” (check the above, WSJ actually said that) which in July kidnapped the commander and deputy commander of the Pentagon’s ragtag group of US-trained rebels that was supposed to number in the thousands by now but has been reduced to just “four or five” men and which was humiliated last Friday when the remaining fighters were forced to surrender their pickup trucks and ammo to al-Nusra in order to “secure safe passage” to who knows where.

Considering that, and considering the “solid” relationship the US has always maintained with al-Qaeda, it sure would be a shame if a few al-Nusra operatives wound up as collateral damage in Russia’s air campaign. 

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