Kerry: U.S. would have ‘grave concerns’ if Russia struck groups in Syria other than IS, al-Qaida

Defence Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the Russian airstrikes in Syria appear to have targeted areas that do not include Islamic State fighters, a development which Secretary of State John Kerry said would cause "grave concern" for the United States.

WASHINGTON — Defence Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the Russian airstrikes in Syria appear to have targeted areas that do not include Islamic State fighters, a development which Secretary of State John Kerry said would cause “grave concern” for the United States.

Kerry told the United Nations Security Council that the U.S. would not object to Russians hitting Islamic State or al-Qaida targets but airstrikes just to strengthen the hand of Syrian President Bashar Assad would be worrisome.

“It does appear they were in in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces,” Carter said of the Russian airstrikes, using an alternative acronym for Islamic State. “The result of this kind of action will inevitably simply be to inflame the civil war in Syria.”

Carter said he couldn’t confirm reports that the Russian strikes may have hit civilians, but said, “if it occurred, it’s yet another reason why this kind of Russian action can and will backfire very badly on Russia.”

Carter’s comments triggered a dismissive response from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who told reporters flatly, “Don’t listen to the Pentagon about the Russian strikes” and referred them to the Russian defence ministry website.

The top national security officials spoke as Russia launched its first airstrikes in Syria targeting what it said were Islamic State positions. On Wednesday, some U.S.-backed rebel groups claimed they were hit by Russian airstrikes but those claims could not be confirmed.

A key unanswered question, however, is what the U.S. will do if the Russian airstrikes target moderate Syrian rebel groups working with the coalition in the fight against the Islamic State. Asked directly if the coalition would protect the U.S.-trained or aligned groups, Carter did not answer.

Instead, Carter said the strikes highlight a contradiction in Russia’s approach. He said the Russians should not be supporting the Assad government, and their military moves are “doomed to fail.”

Carter also expressed disappointment that the Russians did not use formal channels to provide the U.S. with advance notice of its airstrikes, but instead sent an official to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad for what he characterized as an unprofessional “drop-in.”

“By supporting Assad and seemingly taking on everyone who is fighting Assad, you’re taking on the whole rest of the country of Syria,” Carter said. “That is not our position. At least some parts of the anti-Assad opposition belong in the political transition going forward. That’s why the Russian approach is doomed to fail.”

He added that more formal talks with the Russians should get under way “within days.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the new action “calls into question their strategy, because when President Putin and President Obama had the opportunity to meet at the U.N. earlier this week much of their discussion was focused on the need for a political transition inside Syria.”

Kerry said Russian operations must not support Assad or interfere with those of the U.S.-led coalition that is already attacking Islamic State targets. He called for an urgent start to military-to-military talks to prevent any kind of conflict between Russia and the coalition, suggesting they begin this week.

“If Russia’s recent actions and those now ongoing reflect a genuine commitment to defeat (the Islamic State) then we are prepared to welcome those efforts and to find a way to de-conflict our operations and thereby multiply military pressure on ISIL and affiliated groups,” Kerry said. “But we must not and will not be confused in our fight against ISIL with support for Assad.”

“Moreover, we have also made clear that we would have grave concerns should Russia strike areas where ISIL and al-Qaida affiliated targets are not operating,” he said. “Strikes of that kind would question Russia’s real intentions fighting ISIL or protecting the Assad regime.”

Kerry also said the U.S.-led coalition would “dramatically accelerate” its efforts.

Lavrov followed Kerry, saying Russia is ready to “forge standing channels of communication to ensure a maximally effective fight.” He listed countries with a key role to play in resolving the chaos in Syria, including Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar , the U.S. and China.

Just Posted

Break-in at Red Deer business

Social media reports confirm a business break and enter in Red Deer… Continue reading

‘Rough waters’: Spill raises new questions about fast-growing N.L. oil industry

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador’s ambitious plans to dramatically expand… Continue reading

Trudeau rules out snap election call, national ballot slated for Oct. 21

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there will be no early… Continue reading

Canadian firm says it has found largest diamond ever unearthed in North America

YELLOWKNIFE — A Canadian mining firm says it has unearthed the largest… Continue reading

Man from Olds killed in collision near Sundre

A 39-year-old man from Olds was killed in a collision near Sundre… Continue reading

WATCH: More than 100 protest UN migration pact, carbon tax in Red Deer

Chants of “Trudeau must go” echoed through the streets of downtown Red… Continue reading

Man who demolished landmark house ordered to build replica

SAN FRANCISCO — A man who illegally demolished a San Francisco house… Continue reading

Giuliani: ‘Over my dead body’ will Mueller interview Trump

WASHINGTON — With a number of probes moving closer to the Oval… Continue reading

Quebecers criticize western oil but buying more gasoline, SUVs, bigger homes: report

MONTREAL — Quebec’s premier is quick to reject “dirty” oil from Western… Continue reading

Speaker Geoff Regan opens the door to his apartment in Parliament

OTTAWA — One of the best-kept secrets inside the main building on… Continue reading

Baloo the cat is back at home after being mistakenly shipped to Montreal

HALIFAX — Much to the relief of his loving family, Baloo the… Continue reading

‘It’s what we do’: Famous Newfoundlanders help replace veteran’s stolen guitar

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Two famous Newfoundlanders stepped in to help an… Continue reading

Quebec’s anti-corruption unit blames media coverage for recruiting troubles

MONTREAL — Seven years after it was created, Quebec’s anti-corruption unit is… Continue reading

Former PQ cabinet minister poised to become next Bloc Quebecois leader

MONTREAL — It appears likely that Yves-Francois Blanchet, a former Parti Quebecois… Continue reading

Most Read