The videos posted almost daily by the defense ministry show Russian strike fighters in action over Syria, hammering “terrorist infrastructure” with precision-guided munitions. Meanwhile, Russian media reports speak of major gains by Syrian armed forces advancing behind a firestorm of Russian air support.
But there is growing controversy over what the Russians are actually accomplishing with their two-week-old intervention in Syria’s bitter and multi-sided civil war, and what their actual war objectives may be.
Western sources argue that most Russian air strikes have been directed not at the generally acknowledged enemy, the self-declared Islamic State, but against “moderate” rebels. Those forces have been fighting to overthrow the minority-led dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad for almost four years, with assistance from the CIA, Turkey, and Persian Gulf states. The US Central Command has even alleged that Russian air strikes are actually enabling IS to gain ground by weakening other rebel formations that are opposed to the extremists.