Claiming to target ISIS, Russia conducted its first airstrikes in Syria, while U.S. officials expressed serious doubts Wednesday about what the true intentions behind the move may be. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, warplanes targeted eight ISIS positions, including arms, transportation, communications and control positions. But U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter countered that claim. “I want to be careful about confirming information, but it does appear that they (Russian airstrikes) were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces,” he told reporters. ISIL is an acronym for ISIS.
“The result of this kind of action will inevitably, simply be to inflame the civil war in Syria,” Carter said.
A senior U.S. administration official said that a Russian airstrike near the Syrian city of Homs “has no strategic purpose” in terms of combating ISIS, which “shows they are not there to go after ISIL.”
Syrian state-run news agency SANA reported that Russian warplanes had targeted “ISIS dens” in al-Rastan, Talbiseh and Zafaraniya in Homs province; Al-Tilol al-Hmer, in Qunaitra province; Aydoun, a village on the outskirts of the town of Salamiya; Deer Foul, between Hama and Homs; and the outskirts of Salmiya.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 28 people were killed in the strikes, including women and children. The Syrian National Coalition reported that 36 people were killed, all civilians.
The U.S. official said the United States had no intention of preventing the strikes, but that Russian planes didn’t seem to be flying in areas where the United States is operating. “They are not stupid,” the official said.