Putin's holy war: Syrians outraged at Russian intervention

Talbiseh residents who spoke with Syria Deeply expressed anger over Moscow’s attacks on the town, and over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aid to the beleaguered government of Bashar al-Assad. “Russia launched the attacks to protect Assad,” says Abdul Latif, a 34-year-old father of three from Talbiseh, who works at an auto shop in town and volunteers in his spare time distributing food to the needy. “These are Putin’s words, but he actually attacked civilians.”

Another resident, Abdul Latif, is indignant. “He wants to protect Assad by killing civilians? We cannot tell who will kill us next. It was Assad, then Iran and Hezbollah, and now Russia. They are all killing innocent Syrians. How much did Assad pay Russia for this kind of protection?”

He wonders where the Friends of Syria Group is and why the United States, Europe and the Gulf are not helping more. “Where are they? Why don’t they do something? They have sat and watched while we were slaughtered for five years now, but they have done nothing serious about it,” Latif asserts. He says that in Talbiseh, people call President Barack Obama “the chicken” because he lacks the will or the courage to stand up to Russia…

Abu Abdul Ilah, a 41-year-old Algerian currently in Idlib fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra (the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda), frames Russia’s military intervention in a different light. “This is a war on Islam,” says Abdul Ilah, who recently moved to Syria after years of fighting with al-Qaeda in Iraq. “Russia’s animosity toward jihadists dates back to the days of Chechnya and Afghanistan,” he adds, arguing that Russia is using the Syrian conflict as an expedient opportunity to take revenge.