Propaganda War Begins: Russia's Syria Strikes Targeted US-Backed "Moderate" Rebels, West Says

Tyler Durden's picture

With the US having officially lost control of the narrative in Syria now that The Kremlin has called Washington’s bluff on the battle to eradicate ISIS and eliminate the Sunni extremist elements that threaten to wrest control of Syria from President Bashar al-Assad, the only remaining question after Russian lawmakers officially cleared the way for airstrikes was how long it would be before the Western media began shouting about Russian warplanes bombing targets that aren’t affiliated with ISIS.

As we reported earlier today, Moscow wasted no time in launching its first round of air raids.

In turn, the West wasted no time in contending that Russia is targeting areas that aren’t known to be strategically significant for ISIS. Here’s a look at two headlines which do a nice job of summarizing all of the rhetoric which you’re about to hear emanating ceaselessly from every corner of the Western world in the coming days and weeks:


And here’s WSJ with a sneak peek at the new narrative which Washington will be working hard to refine:

Russian President Vladimir Putin inserted his country directly into Syria’s war Wednesday, as Russian forces launched their first airstrikes against what Moscow said were Islamic State targets in the Middle Eastern nation.


But Western leaders raised doubts about whether Russia really intended to take the fight to Islamic State, or merely broaden the Syrian regime’s offensive against a wide range of other opponents.


For the U.S., the Russian strikes add new questions about the role of Russian forces in Syria. “While we would welcome a constructive role by Russia in this effort, today’s [meeting in Baghdad] hardly seems indicative of that sort of role and will in no way alter our operations,” a U.S. official said.


Warplanes targeted Islamic State military hardware and weapons stores, a spokesman for Russia’s Ministry of Defense told official news agencies hours after Russian lawmakers approved a request by Mr. Putin to allow the use of force abroad.


Framing the attacks as part of a fight against terrorism, Mr. Putin said that Russia will support the Syrian army from the air, without any ground operations, for the duration of the Syrian offensive.


“The only real way to fight international terrorism…is to act pre-emptively. and not wait till they [terrorists] come to our home,” Mr. Putin said in televised comments. He called for antiterror cooperation with other states through the Russian coordination center in Baghdad.


The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported Wednesday that Russian airstrikes hit areas under Islamic State control in Homs and Hama provinces, including the cities of Al Rastan and Talbiseh, near the town of Salamiyah, and the villages of al-Za’faran, al-Humr Hills, Eidoun, Salamiyah and Deir Fol. The strikes had successfully targeted Islamic State, SANA said, without elaborating.


But with the exception of the area east of the town of Salamiyah in Hama province, none of the areas listed by the Syrian regime have a known presence of Islamic State fighters. They are largely dominated by relatively moderate rebel factions and Islamist groups like Ahrar al-Sham and the al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front.

Yes, “relatively moderate rebel factions like al-Qaeda" (check the above, WSJ actually said that) which in July kidnapped the commander and deputy commander of the Pentagon’s ragtag group of US-trained rebels that was supposed to number in the thousands by now but has been reduced to just “four or five” men and which was humiliated last Friday when the remaining fighters were forced to surrender their pickup trucks and ammo to al-Nusra in order to “secure safe passage” to who knows where.

Considering that, and considering the "solid" relationship the US has always maintained with al-Qaeda, it sure would be a shame if a few al-Nusra operatives wound up as collateral damage in Russia’s air campaign. 

Then there's The Telegraph with an epic attempt to spin the news with a single headline: "Putin defies West as Russia bomb 'Syrian rebel targets instead of Isil'".

Meanwhile, France - who recently went full-propaganda by using “self defense” to justify its newly launched Syrian bombing campaign - is out expressing its consternation about which groups Russia is bombing. Via Reuters:

France said it was "curious" that Russian air strikes in Syria on Wednesday had not targeted Islamic State militants and a diplomatic source added that Moscow's action appeared aimed at supporting President Bashar al-Assad against other opposition groups in the country's civil war.


The diplomatic source said it was in line with Russia's stance since 2012 that until there was a viable alternative to Assad, Moscow would not drop its support for him in the war that began in 2011 after a government crackdown on anti-Assad protests.


"Russian forces struck Syria and curiously didn't hit Islamic State," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers.


A French diplomatic source said the strikes, which seemed to have been carried out near Homs, an area crucial to Assad's control of western Syria. 


"It is not Daesh (Islamic State) that they are targeting, but probably opposition groups, which confirms that they are more in support of Bashar's regime than in fighting Daesh," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


"We shall see what they do with their other strikes," the source said.

And then Germany (which, much to Moscow's chagrin, recently announced it’s set to receive a shipment of new US nukes) jumped on the bandwagon. Via Bloomberg:

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Russia needs to explain its aims in carrying out airstrikes in Syria. 


“In this highly charged situation in Syria there’s a big risk that there will be further misunderstandings between the partners, all of whom are needed to calm the situation”


“I hope that this isn’t slamming shut all the doors that were laboriously opened in recent days, including in talks between President Obama and President Putin”


“Only coordinated action can lead to a solution. Military action along won’t help us overcome the Syrian crisis. We have to get into a political process. We need the neighbors, Russia, the U.S., and we in Europe can be helpful, too."

There are two things to note here. First, there isn't anything "curious" about this and Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his intent to keep the Assad regime from falling. Indeed, it's not clear what else Putin could do besides invite Charlie Rose for a two hour interview and explain three separate times that Moscow intends to support Assad. Second, Germany's suggestion that Russia is "slamming shut all the doors to cooperation" is ridiculous to the point of absurdity. As the events that have unfolded over the past several weeks have made abundantly clear, it is the West that has slammed the door shut on Russia when it comes to cooperating to fight ISIS and the reason for Washington's trepidation stems directly from i) wanting to oust Assad at all costs even if it means allowing the extremists operating in Syria to remain active until the regime falls, and ii) the fact that no matter what line The White House trots out to the public, the US views the Russia-Iran "nexus" as far more dangerous to America's geopolitical ambitions than ISIS and therefore, allying with Washington's two fiercest foreign policy critics simply isn't an option even if such an alliance would swiftly eradicate Islamic State. 

And of course the narrative wouldn't be complete without some on-the-ground Skype "intelligence". Here's Reuters:

Russian air strikes in northwest Syria which Moscow said targeted Islamic State fighters hit a rebel group supported by Western opponents of President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, wounding eight, the group's commander said.


He said the fighters were hit in the countryside of Hama province, where the group has a headquarters.


"The northern countryside of Hama has no presence of ISIS at all and is under the control of the Free Syrian Army," Major Jamil al-Saleh, who defected from the Syrian army in 2012, told Reuters via Skype.


Saleh said his group had been supplied with advanced anti-tank missiles by foreign powers opposed to Assad.

The Homs area is crucial to President Bashar al-Assad's control of western Syria. Insurgent control of that area would bisect the Assad-held west, separating Damascus from the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartous, where Russia operates a naval facility.


"In the early morning this aircraft conducted air strikes in Latamneh city. One targeted a civilian area, and the other targeted al-Izza," Saleh said, referring to his group which he said were set up around two years ago and has 1,500 fighters.


He declined to give further details on the exact location of the strike but said the bombs hit a cave which the group used as a headquarters and was near the front line with the regime in northern Hama countryside.


"Each strike had 8-10 missiles and there were two strikes so there is no way it was an accident," he added.

No, it probably was not an accident, but what the Western powers want you to believe is that because they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge what's going on even when it is patiently explained to them by The Kremlin, then anything that happens is thereby a mystery. 

The bottom line going forward is that the US and its regional and European allies are going to have to decide whether they want to be on the right side of history here or not, and as we've been careful to explain, no one is arguing that Bashar al-Assad is the most benevolent leader in the history of statecraft but it has now gotten to the point where Western media outlets are describing al-Qaeda as "moderate" in a last ditch effort to explain away Washington's unwillingness to join Russia in stabilizing Syria. This is a foreign policy mistake of epic proportions on the part of the US and the sooner the West concedes that and moves to correct it by admitting that none of the groups the CIA, the Pentagon, and Washington's Mid-East allies have trained and supported represent a viable alternative to the Assad regime, the sooner Syria will cease to be the chessboard du jour for a global proxy war that's left hundreds of thousands of innocent people dead.

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nope-1004's picture

So Russia is stabilizing the region, taking out ISIS, and the US is mad?  lmao  The US has a serious choice to make here:  Either admit they are the real terrorist and fight Russia or concede.


Looney's picture

Putin should send a golf club to 0bama as a gift with ‘keep quiet while others are playing” engraved on it.  ;-)


NoDebt's picture


I thought that's exactly what Putin said he was going to do.

stacking12321's picture

“The only real way to fight international terrorism…is to act pre-emptively. and not wait till they [terrorists] come to our home,” Mr. Putin said

wow, sounds like bush.

Pinto Currency's picture



Russia's Syria Strikes Targeted US-Backed "Moderate" Rebels, West Says ..."

Brought to you by the "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor." people.

Remember, there are moderate rebels and there are also moderate cannibals.

cheech_wizard's picture

>Russia's Syria Strikes Targeted US-Backed "Moderate" Rebels, West Says

How many of them did the West say were actually left? In the last article I read, the count was down to 5.

monk27's picture

They must have been holed up in that little green dot in the middle of the map. That's a very bad location to avoid Russian bombs...

Ace006's picture

Four plus one admin officer.

Dinero D. Profit's picture

These two cannibals were having a clown for lunch, and one turns to the other and says, "Does this taste funny to you?"

toxic8's picture

Is it me, or does this whole thing seem eerily reminiscent of something out of the Ribbentrop-Molotov playbook?

Ace006's picture

More like the day before WWI.

JohninMK's picture

I don't remember a similar howl of angst in the press when NATO member Turkey started bombing the West's friends, the Kurds, instead of ISIS.

No hypocrisy here then.

schadenfreude's picture

That was exactly my first thought. The hypocrisy of the involved parties is obvious. Quid pro quo from Russian side.

HenryHall's picture

The Russians have been missile striking (not bombing) the people who have been selling weapons to ISIS.

Commander Cody's picture

Methinks Vlad is talking about the USA.

V in PA's picture

Who is down voting this. This sounds excatly like the propoganda we are being fed here in the USA.

Bananamerican's picture

Russia is trolling america when they say "we have to fight them THERE so we don't have to fight them HERE"

how is the u.s. gonna call "bullshit" when we invented that bullshit line?

markovchainey's picture

Spot on Bananamerican.

Anyone know where I can get a Vlad 2016 bumper sticker?

Cynicles's picture

Anyone know where I can get a Vlad 2016 bumper sticker?

Look no further than the KGB or the CIA.

CheapBastard's picture

<< Russia is trolling america when they say "we have to fight them THERE so we don't have to fight them HERE" >>


More international law precedent estabilished by GWB.

kralizec's picture

Well, it was established a long time before the "modern era" look no further than LBJ.  But its genesis goes back much much further...

Nations have been operating for their own interests since the beginning...

palmereldritch's picture

In the War on Terror, Vlad is showing them the real definition of the word on

MalteseFalcon's picture


"wow, sounds like bush."

Let's give it a few months and see if it looks like bush.

Maybe the "long war" can be greatly condensed if the Russians fight it.

r0mulus's picture

He's clothing himself in language that Bush invented so that the US sheeple will have trouble contending with it- after all, they have already been conditioned to accept such logic as a given.

Putin is trolling the US leadership right now.

Seriously, did the WSJ just write "relatively moderate" about Al Nusra?
The same branch of that Al Qaida that purportedly downed the twin towers?
Fuck off WSJ. You're embarassing yourselves, not to mention direly offending 9/11 victims families.

Grimaldus's picture

The WSJ obamatron assclown progressive stupid, it burns.


Quite clear now this shit-show is OWNED by PROGRESSIVES.


Obirdbrain, Lurch and Hillary damn sure aren't constitutional conservatives, are they? 


The French? Progressive as well.


You see now, don't you? I'll say it again, the progressive stupid, it burns.


Constitutional Conservative policy is NON-INTERVENTION and NO WARS.






Freddie's picture

Meanwhile back in Amerika Trayvonville:

Artist fatally shot while working on anti-violence mural in Oakland, CA


Ace006's picture

It's a crazy world.  I used to hang on every word of the WSJ editorial pages and I despised the Soviets.  Now it's the reverse (substituting "Russians" for "Soviets"). If Putin is in favor of boiled cabbage, well, I am too.

The central planners's picture

He didnt say that.  He said the only way to stop Qatar's nat gas pipeline is to act pre-emptively

Latina Lover's picture

Moderate Rebels in Syria just means they cut your head  off more quickly.

Berspankme's picture

Kerry must have slept thru Putin's speech at UN

ASACJon's picture

He had a tough day at the track and needed to rest.  I heard he was so beat that he was ready for bed even with his feeding bag on.

L Bean's picture

He was getting re-shoed, perfect time for a nap.

CheapBastard's picture

Kerry and the State dept are the laughing stock of the world nowadays: Nudelman, Kerry, Psacki, and on and on.

Freddie's picture

yes but they are destroying America, Europe, Canada, Australia and NZ with open borders from the third world so they are doing their job for Soros and the other zoligarchs.

agent default's picture

U.S real concern is that nobody gives a fuck about them or their NATO puppets anymore. 

11b40's picture

You got that right.  I saw some of that propaganda press conference by Ashton Carter this afternoon, and he was choosing words very carefully, trying hard to get just the right descriptions of the "moderate resistance fighters".  Sure don't want to label them Al Qaeda, do we?

He also went on about what Russia must do to be taken seriously on the world stage.  What a tool.  All Russia has to do is tell the U.S. to bugger off, and bingo, the rest of the world takes them seriously.  What world does this dude live in.  He runs the Defense Department, so is it any surprised U.S. policy is so inane.

Oh, the horror!  Russia is not acting in a constructive manner, and he was clearly pissed that Russia gave thee U.S. 1 hour notice to stay out of Syrian air space because they were about to go on the offensive.  He seems so shocked that Putin wasn't just limiting attacks to "known ISIS areas".  If it weren't such a dangerous situation, it would be funny.  Instead, it is embarrassingly pathetic and lame.

Grimaldus's picture

Again, the progressive stupid, it burns.





CheapBastard's picture

Meanwhile ...


Amid Taliban gains, US military favors longer presence


Bullish for DC area house prices!

Winston Churchill's picture

Takes patience to school horses.

MrPalladium's picture


No, Russia is smart enough to understand that you cannot safely move into isis territory while leaving anti Assad rebel forces behind you. No sane commander would take such a risk.

Flagit's picture

What part of "secure the Assad regime" do people not understand?

StychoKiller's picture

Meh, I'm pretty sure that at airstrike altitudes, one group of thugs dressed in black, toting AK-47s whilst driving in white Toyota pickups looks like any other said group.  IOW, if you're NOT wearing a Syrian Army uniform, you can expect some Russian/Syrian ordnance in yer future!

Bunga Bunga's picture

Putin should rather send him a chessboard.

Divine Wind's picture





With an extra black queen instead of a king !