US and Russia on Syrian Airspace
Iranian troops arrived in Syria to support the al-Assad government, according to some Lebanese sources on Thursday; this is a sign that the civil war is becoming more regional and global.
“The vanguard of Iranian ground forces began arriving in Syria – soldiers and officers specifically to participate in this battle. They are not advisers… we mean hundreds with equipment and weapons. They will be followed by more,” one of the Lebanese sources said.
On the second day of airstrikes, Russian warplanes bombed a camp of rebels that were trained by the CIA, thereby putting a rift between Moscow and Washington in this Middle East conflict for the first time since the Cold War.
The foreign minister of Russia, Segrey Lavrov, said at the UN in New York on Thursday, “Russia’s airstrikes in Syria do not go beyond ISIL (ISIS), al Nusra or other terrorist groups recognized by the United Nations Security Council or Russian Law.”
According to Lavrov, the “other terrorist groups” pertain to those who look, act, walk, and fight like a terrorist.
Moscow versus Anti-Assad Groups
Moscow, supporters of the regime of the Syrian President Bahar al-Assad, was accused of using the airstrikes to target anti-Assad groups which include the US-backed opposition group which is the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
To that, Lavrov said, “We believe that the Free Syrian Army should be part of the political process. The goal of our operation — in response to the request of President Assad and on the basis of the decision granted by the Russian parliament to the Russian President in accordance with the Russian constitution — the goal is terrorism and we are not supporting anyone against their own people. We fight terrorism.”
Pentagon Expresses Concern
Senior Pentagon officials expressed their concerns to the military officials of Russia that the airstrikes in Syria aren’t hitting the ISIS targets as what they’ve claimed.
These concerns were raised during the initial talks between US and Russia in order to keep their military aircraft from getting into contact over the skies of Syria; where airstrikes are currently happening.
The talks were said to be cordial and professional, according to Peter Cook, the press secretary of Pentagon. He also said that both sides devised proposals to minimize possible risks to their pilots.
The US was represented by the acting assistant secretary of the Defense for International Affairs, Elissa Slotkin, and the joint staff Director of Strategic Plans and Policy, vice Admiral Frank Pandolfe.
According to Cook, Slotkin reiterated during the talks that the focus of the military activities in Syria should be to defeat ISIL. Slotkin also noted the concerns that the targets of Russia are not the strongholds of ISIL. However, Cook didn’t tell how Russia responded to these comments.
Some important points during the talk was about what international frequency should be used for distress calls and the language medium that should be used for communication between aircrafts.
Cook said, “Those are some of the questions that we’re trying to address. And in the course of these conversations to try and make it as efficient and professional as possible for these air crews so that there is no misjudgment or miscalculation in the air.”