Russia launched its first air-strikes in Syria today. CNN informs us that the Russian Defense Ministry said warplanes targeted eight ISIS positions, "including arms, transportation, communications and control positions." But US Defense Secretary Ash Carter isn't buying it. "I want to be careful about confirming information, but it does appear that they were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces," he told reporters. Carter is actually hedging his bets here. You don't have to have the Defense Intelligence Agency at your disposal to figure out that Russia is lying. The Institute for the Study of War notes that the first air-strikes were in Talbisah, north of Homs—controlled by the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham. As Vox points out, this is some 100 miles from the nearest ISIS-controlled territory. In fact, it is in a pocket of rebel-held territory just outside regime-controlled Homs. So the Russian aim is pretty clearly not to fight ISIS but to prop up the Bashar Assad dictatorship. Syria's state news agency SANA said the Russian strikes hit "ISIS dens in al-Rastan, Talbeisa, al-Zaafran, al-Tolol al-Humr, Aydon, Deir Fol and the area surrounding Salmia…" But these are all in Homs and Hama governorates—again, nowhere near ISIS territory to the north and east. Do the Russian Defense Ministry and SANA think we are incapable of looking at maps?
And these rebel forces that Russia bombed are actually hostile to ISIS. Is SANA just using "ISIS" as a cynical short-hand for any rebel forces?
The ISW also finds that the 33 reported casualties in Talbisah were all civilians. The Linux Beach blog, which doggedly covers the Syria conflict, notes with chagrin that Amy Goodman's Democracy Now, which presumes to call itself the "War & Peace Report," had absolutely nothing to say about the Russian air-strikes today. But Linux Beach does post horrific Twitter photos of mangled children said to be casualties of the Russian strikes.
Yesterday, Democracy Now "reported" on Putin's UN meeting with Obama with the jaundiced headline "Will Regime Change in Syria Further Destabilize War-Torn Nation?"—as if Assad's ongoing genocide against the Syrian people is not what has given rise to jihadism in Syria in the first place. Of course, no Syrians are interviewed. Instead, Goodman gives the mic to Vijay Prashad, who tells us that the slogan "Assad must go" is "anachronistic" because Assad is "deeply weakened" today. Tell that to the folks getting bombed by regime warplanes in Aleppo and Ghouta, Vijay. And now the folks getting bombed by Assad's Russian friends in al-Rastan and Talbisah.
We can understand Ash Carter's equivocation. He has to parse his words to avoid unduly antagonizing Moscow, and of course the US has also bombed the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. But what explains the silence and denialism on the "anti-war" (sic) left?