by Jason Ditz
Russian Foreign Affairs Committee head Alexei Pushkov, a top ally of President Vladimir Putin, sought to downplay the risk of getting bogged down in Syria today, saying there is always such a risk but that officials don’t expect the air campaign to last more than 3-4 months.
Pushkov said he believed major progress could be made in just a few months, in contrast to America’s own bombing campaign in Syria, which he suggested was the US spending a solid year “pretending” to bomb ISIS, noting that some 80% of the US coalition bombing runs don’t result in any bombings.
Russia began bombing Syria on Wednesday around Homs and Hama, and today bombings more deeply into major ISIS territory around Raqqa. US officials have been critical of the air campaign, accusing Russia of primarily bombing pro-US factions and not ISIS.
Pushkov insisted that the strikes were targeting ISIS or factions that are “very close” to ISIS. Other Russian officials have indicated that there is a “list” of factions inside Syria that are approved for strikes, and that this includes ISIS, al-Qaeda, and some other Islamist factions.
He went on to say that Friday would see US and Russian military officials having their first formal contacts on coordination of the air campaigns to prevent conflict, though US officials have ruled out any serious cooperation with the Russian strikes against ISIS.