Civilian deaths dim chances of US-Russian alliance in Syria

Reports of great loss of civilian lives decrease prospects for US-Russian alliance in Syria, according to US officials

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) listen while UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (C) speaks during a news conference at the Grand Hotel in Vienna, October 30, 2015

Reports of great loss of civilian lives due to Russia's bombing campaign in Syria is one key reason why the US is not likely to coordinate air strikes with Moscow against DAESH, according to US officials.

During a White House news conference alongside his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, Obama reiterated that Moscow was "welcome to be part of this broad-based coalition that we've set up." However, it must shift its focus from bolstering Syrian Regime leader Bashar al Assad and redirect its air strikes away from opposition fighters to hit DAESH terrorists, he said.

US officials, however, stated that Russia is facing a number of other obstacles for it to participate in the US-led coalition, of which include 60 nations that is targeting DAESH in both Syria and Iraq.

The US, by working alongside Moscow militarily in Syria, could be considered as complicit in the killing and injuring of innocent civilians, US officials speaking on condition of anonymity continued.

They also added that they feared that US-Russian military cooperation would damage US relations with Syrian opposition fighting factions, some of whom Obama administration is backing militarily.

Russia's obvious lack of regard for civilian deaths was one of the reasons the US has been reluctant to partner with Moscow, a US official said.

‘Sloppy military work’

US officials also stated that they did not argue against Syrian human rights activists' allegations that Russian bombs and missiles have targeted mosques, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, whilst killing hundreds of Syrian civilians.

Colonel Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the US-led coalition, stated that the US military believes private estimates by non-governmental groups of the civilian death toll were "fairly accurate."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitor group stated in a Nov. 20 report that at least 403 civilians, including more than 160 women and children, had been killed due to Russian air strikes.

"This is sloppy military work," Warren stated referring to the Russian air strikes.

"This is the reckless and irresponsible, imprecise and frankly uncaring approach to operations in Syria that the Russians have taken on."

Russia claims that its air strikes are targeting the DAESH terrorist group, and it denies that it has killed civilians, adding that earlier this month, the Kremlin was "outraged" by a report conducted by US organisation Physicians for Human Rights that stated that it had bombed 10 medical facilities in the month of October.

Another reason why Russia's air strikes are killing civilians according to US officials, is due to its heavy reliance on "dumb bombs," instead of using precision-guided munitions.

One US government source also said that many of Russia's targets in Syria have been catered by Assad's regime.

The UN estimates that more than 250,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict and at least 11 million people displaced from their homes, including more than 4 million who have fled the country.

TRTWorld and agencies