Assessing the Consequences of Russian Intervention in Syria’s Civil War

Posted Oct. 7, 2015

MP3 Interview with Chris Toensing, editor of Middle East Report, conducted by Scott Harris

syria

The brutal civil war in Syria has thus far claimed the lives of an estimated 250,000 people, while creating millions of internal and external refugees seeking safe haven from the conflict in the Middle East and across Europe. After four-and-a-half-years of war, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has been condemned for its indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, has in recent months lost ground to both western-backed opposition rebel groups and ISIS.

Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, has now joined the conflict with the goal of bolstering Assad’s weakened military. Russian airstrikes carried out by sophisticated fighter jets, along with the deployment of tanks and armored personnel carriers, has been criticized by the U.S. and NATO for supporting a regime whose ruthless tactics they say triggered the armed rebellion in 2011. Further, they charge that Russia has not targeted ISIS, but western-backed rebel groups. Russian officials reject the charge and maintain that their targets are ISIS, al-Nusra and other terrorist groups. Conflicting reports on the future deployment of Russian ground troops into Syria and their war planes’ recent violation of Turkish airspace has ratcheted up tensions.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Chris Toensing, executive director of the Middle East Research and Information Project and editor of their publication Middle East Report. Here, he assesses the possible consequences of Russia's escalating military role in Syria's civil war and prospects for a negotiated end to the conflict.

For more information, visit Middle East Research and Information Project at merip.org and Middle East Report at merip.org/mero.

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