By Roy Gutman
Three days into its bombing campaign in Syria, Russia on Friday at last targeted Islamic State positions, striking at the defacto capital of the terror organization and at least one other site.
The Russian strikes at the Islamic State came after two days in which its aircraft attacked locations belonging to other fighting groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad, including CIA-supported rebels, sparking calls for the Obama administration to do something to protect fighters it had trained and equipped.
But President Barack Obama made clear that the U.S. had no plans to deepen its role in Syria.
“We’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia,” Obama said at a White House press conference. “That would be bad strategy on our part.”
He also rejected calls he should act to preserve U.S. credibility and influence.
“This is not some, you know, superpower chess board contest, and anybody who frames it in that way isn’t paying very close attention to what’s been happening on the chess board,” he said.
But there were signs that U.S. influence over events in Syria was eroding, with the Kurdish militia that has been Washington’s closest ally on the ground there extending a public welcome to Russia and offering to fight alongside Russia against the Islamic State. It also asked Moscow for weapons.
We want Russia to provide us air support as well as weapons in our fight against the ISIL militants. Sipan Hemo, YPG commander
“We will fight alongside whoever fights Daesh,” Salih Muslim, co-president of the Democratic Union Party, the Kurdish political party whose militia, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, have closely coordinated its operations with the United States, told the online magazine Al Monitor in an interview. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State,