Nytt

Bildet: Øverstkommanderende for Central Command, general Joseph Votel, tegnet et bilde av Russlands handlinger i Syria som neppe gjorde Kongressen mildere stemt. Slik det nå ser ut er Russland blitt en motstander i Syria, sammen med Erodgan, Assad og Teheran. Foto: Yuri Gripas/Reuters/Scanpix

Russland spiller en destruktiv rolle i Syria. Først antenner man en brann, deretter rykker man ut for å slokke, men på betingelser som fremmer russiske interesser, sa øverstbefalende for Centcom, Central Command, general Joseph Votel til forsvarskomiteen i Representantenes hus tirsdag.

Russia both ‘arsonist and fireman’ in Syria crisis, top U.S. general says

Det er sterke ord. Forholdet mellom Russland og USA har forverret seg de siste ukene, ikke minst på bakgrunn av det som skjer i Syria.

USA later til å se et mønster: En hensynsløs oppførsel, enten det er amerikanske forhold eller krigen i Syria.

Det har vært en allmenn oppfatning at Putin tross alt har bekjempet IS, i det minste etter å ha drept de moderate opprørerne. Så er ikke tilfelle, sa general Votel.

Russisk intervensjon i Syria har ingenting med bekjempelse av IS å gjøre, sa Votel.

Russia’s intervention in Syria has nothing to do with combating terrorism or battling remnants of the Islamic State in Syria, Gen. Votel told the House committee.

Moscow’s activities, he said, “are not focused on defeating ISIS, but rather on preserving their own influence and control over the outcome of the situation.”

“It is clear that Russia’s interests in Syria are Russia’s interests and not those of the wider international community,” the four-star general said.

Destruktive

General Votel sa Russland forsøker å eskalere volden og splittelsen i Syria. Det er en alvorlig anklage. Forhandlinger om våpenhvile er således bare et spill for galleriet. I Ghouta har den i dag vart i fem timer, men selv dette vinduet er ikke skjermet. Usikkerheten gjør at de som styrer våpnene har all makt.

Gen. Votel said Russia was trying to exacerbate the violence and division in Syria in order to maximize its own advantages.

“I’m being very serious when I say they play the role of both arsonists and firemen, fueling tensions and then trying to resolve them in their favor, manipulating all the parties they can to try to achieve their objectives,” he said.

“I think there certainly has to be more accountability and pressure put on Russia to do what they said they were going to do,” he added.

Saboterer

Slik USA ser det, bærer Russland et direkte ansvar for bombingen av sivile i Ghouta, som har krevd 500 liv på en uke. Men ikke bare det. Russland prøver å sabotere fredsforhandlingene i Genve som USA og FN står bak, til fordel for sin egen fredsprosessn, den såkalte Astana-prosessen.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters last week that Russia “bears a unique responsibility” for the massacre carried out against more than 400 civilians in East Ghouta. Without Russian backing of the Syrian military, she said, the “devastation and the deaths would certainly not be occurring.”

Ms. Nauert also argued that the Kremlin was aiming to subvert U.S.- and U.N.-backed peace talks in Geneva in favor of an alternative, Moscow-driven process known as the “Astana process,” with Russia, Turkey and Iran acting as guarantors of any agreement. The grim fate of East Ghouta — one of the “de-escalation zones” envisioned by Russia — undercut Moscow’s arguments, she said.

Konflikt på bakken

Votel sa USA aktet å bli stående i Nord-Syria for å sikre kurdernes interesser. De har vært spydspissen i kampen mot IS. Nå er den kampen i det store og hele vunnet, men USA vil ikke la kurderne i stikken.

Et viktig statement som hverken Erdogan, Putin, Teheran eller Assad liker.

Gen. Votel said the U.S. military is committed to staying in Syria as long as necessary to support its Syrian Kurdish allies, who are the go-to ground force in the battle to eliminate the last enclaves held by Islamic State and other jihadi groups.

Gir opp Russland

Det later til at Trump-administrasjonen mer eller mindre har gitt opp håpet om å samarbeide med Russland.

Gen. Votel’s testimony appeared to signal a decisive break with the Trump administration’s early hopes of working more closely with Moscow in the struggle to defeat Islamic State and other jihadi groups and end Syria’s bloody 7-year-old civil war. The general gave his testimony against a backdrop of rising criticism of Russian activities in Syria by Trump administration officials, who argue that the recent spike in violence, particularly around Damascus, has exposed Moscow’s failure to play a leadership role in the war zone.

Strategisk teater

Syria er blitt et «teater» der partene posisjonerer seg. Det Votel sa om Iran dro i samme retning som det han sa om Russland: Tendensen er mer konflikt. Iran har ikke blitt mer medgjørlig etter at Obama inngikk atomavtalen i 2015. Snarere tvert i mot. Det forsøker å bygge seg opp i Syria, slik det gjorde med Hizbollah i Libanon. Det har Israel sagt det ikke vil tillate, og USA later til å mene det samme.

From facilitating military support to Shiite militias in Iraq, known as the Popular Mobilization Units, to pro-regime paramilitaries loyal to Mr. Assad battling U.S.-backed forces in Syria, Tehran has expanded its network of regional allies and proxy forces, Gen. Votel said. That process has accelerated despite Tehran’s signing of the 2015 nuclear deal with the Obama administration and other world powers, he said, through increased hard-line support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Shiite paramilitary forces across the Middle East.

“Despite an agreement regarding its nuclear program, Iran remains a designated state sponsor of terrorism, and it exerts destabilizing influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen,” Gen. Votel said.

Unik posisjon

Amos Yadlin, tidligere leder av den militære etterretningen i Israel, sa Putin har opparbeidet seg en unik posisjon i regionen.

“President Putin has a unique position in the Middle East, not only in Syria,” the former Israeli intelligence official told reporters last week on a conference call hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“He is the only one who can pick up the phone to everybody — to each pair of enemies: the Saudis and the Iranians, the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Kurds and the Turks, and in this case, the Israelis, the Syrians and the Iranians,” Mr. Yadlin said.

Men Putin er en gambler. Angrepet på amerikanske og kurdiske styrker ved Deir al-Zour natten mellom 7 og 8 februar reiser mange ubesvarte spørsmål. Et hundretall russere ble drept. Hva var hensikten?