Russia began its military intervention in Syria a month ago, initially declaring that its aim was to take on the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But instead, it immediately started targeting groups that pose the most threat to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, mainly the Islamist coalition of rebel and jihadi groups known as Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Conquest, which includes the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian branch, as well as more moderate groups backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even the United States.
Russia hopes to consolidate the territory controlled by Assad’s forces, which have also launched an offensive on rebel groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army that have been supplied with advanced anti-tank missiles by the CIA. It looks a little like a proxy war. Meanwhile, ahead of another round of talks on Syria’s future that now include Iran, the United States and its allies still insist that Assad has to go.
In the latest Global Dispatches podcast, host Mark Goldberg talks with Michael Kofman about the Syrian conflict, the impact of Russia’s intervention and Russia and the United States’ differing approaches toward Assad and the Islamic State.