Russia’s recent military engagement in Syria is aiding regime leader Bashar al Assad rather than hindering the ISIS militant group, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.
British intelligence services observed that only one out of 20 Russian air strikes in Syria have actually targeted ISIS militants, while the rest were targeted at ISIS-free areas, killing civilians and factions fighting Assad’s regime, Fallon said on Saturday in an interview with the Sun.
“We’re analysing where the strikes are going every morning,” he said. “The vast majority are not against ISIS at all."
“Our evidence indicates they are dropping unguided munitions in civilian areas, killing civilians, and they are dropping them against the Free Syrian forces fighting Assad.”
Fallon argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “shoring up Assad and perpetuating the suffering.”
Adding that Russia’s intervention had further “complicated” the conflict, he said that the UK needs to extend its own ISIS bombing campaign in Iraq into Syria as well, claiming that it would be “morally wrong” not to attack ISIS in Syria.
But he denied that Putin’s recent actions in Syria had left Europe and the US appearing weak.
“I don’t accept he has outmanoeuvred us. He has complicated the situation in Syria. But we’re not powerless.”
Fallon said that the change in Syria’s current circumstances would not avert the British government from pressing ahead with fighting to extend airstrikes into Syria.
“We can’t leave it to French and Australian, American aircraft to keep our own British streets safe.”
French President Francois Hollande stated on Friday that he had spoken with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and told him that he must strike "Daesh [ISIS] and only Daesh" during Russia’s military engagement in Syria, referring to the acronym of ISIS in Arabic.
"What I told President Putin was that the strikes should concern Daesh and only Daesh. On that basis we have to hold everyone to their responsibilities," Hollande said.
UK, US, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all condemned the Russia’s intervention in Syria, stating that it was clearly not targeting ISIS.
“We express our deep concern with regard to the Russian military build-up in Syria and especially the attacks by the Russian air force on Hama, Homs and Idlib which led to civilian casualties and did not target Daesh,” they all said in a statement.
“These military actions constitute a further escalation and will only fuel more extremism and radicalisation. We call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians and to focus its efforts on fighting ISIS.”