Since Russia commenced its bombing campaign over Syria last Wednesday a number of reports have claimed, among other things, that Russia’s air strikes have solely focused on targeting the so-called Syrian “moderates” in lieu of targeting the territory held by the Islamic State. Worse still, these stories claim, Russia’s involvement will only worsen the situation on the ground; and yet, paradoxically, Russia’s military doesn’t have the wherewithal to see their operation through.
Two stories that advance this confused narrative appeared in the news pages of The Washington Post on October 2 and 3, and not on its editorial pages, where one would normally expect to encounter such fare. The first indication that readers were to be confronted with an anti-Russian spin is that both stories were co-authored by the Post’s young neoconservative fellow traveller Andrew Roth, who has lately churned out such hard-hitting reports as “Live from New York: It’s Putin Speech Bingo.”
Alongside both “news” stories, Roth and his editors feature maps provided from none other than the Institute for the Study of War. For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the work of this militaristic think tank, some background may be in order. The Institute is run by arch-neoconservatives Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, and was instrumental in promoting the career of a serial fabricator by the name of Elizabeth O’Bagy who spent much of 2013—alongside the Russian oligarch–funded pundit Michael Weiss—clamoring for an American-led war against Assad.
Trafficking in little more than nonsense, they wrote in The Atlantic in June 2013 that “Eliminating the flow of men and materiel to Syria would not only hinder Assad’s chances for survival but also disrupt the Iranian mullahs’ takeover of the Levant.”
O’Bagy and Weiss will be granted no credit for prescience on that front. The real threat of a “takeover” of the Levant came—and continues to come—not from the Iranian “mullahs” but rather from the the sworn enemies of the Iranians, the Sunni Islamic State, which itself receives financial backing from the other Sunni Gulf state tyrannies: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Bahrain.
Iranian-backed Shia forces such as Hezbollah are fighting the very same enemies as the secular, Christian, and Alawite Assad forces. What Russia is now doing is flying air sorties in support of Assad’s army, which has had its back pushed up against the wall by ISIS for the past several months.