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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Peskov: Russian Airstrikes Kept Terrorists Out of Damascus

Publication: Polygraph
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Putin's Press Secretary says Russia's bombing in Syria has driven Islamic State and Al-Qaeda from Damascus. It's not true

Headline: Putin's Press Secretary says Russia's bombing in Syria has driven Islamic State and Al-Qaeda from Damascus. It's not true

Name: Dmitry Peskov, Press Secretary for the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin

Statement on left: 

"We can state one thing: taking into account that ISIL, Al-Qaeda, and Nursa [groups banned in Russia-Ed] are not sitting in Damascus -- this is likely the main positive outcome of the support that our air force provided to the legitimate Armed Forces of Syria." 

Source: Vedomosti

http://www.vedomosti.ru/newsline/top/politics/news/2016/09/30/659196-peskov-nazval-glavnii-itog-operatsii-v-sirii

Conclusion (Background color = red): FALSE, INACCURATE OR MISLEADING ON MULTIPLE LEVELS

Date: September 30, 2016

Condensed Version: The press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, was quoted by Vedomosti as saying that the result of Russia's air campaign was that "ISIL, Al-Qaeda, and Nusra are not sitting in Damascus." 

The first inaccuracy in Peskov's statement is that Al-Qaeda-linked groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (now called Jabhat Fatah al-Sham) are not working together. The second inaccuracy is that the extremist group Islamic State does not control territory near Damascus.

Furthermore, very few Russian airstrikes have taken place near Damascus. Additionally, a close analysis of Russia's air campaign shows that almost no Russian airstrikes have hit area controlled by IS. In fact, Russian airstrikes have, at various times, targeted Western-vetted groups that were fighting against IS, allowing the extremist group to gain territory.

While some Russian airstrikes have targeted territory controlled by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, moderate groups with no al-Qaeda affiliation have more often been the target of Russia's bombing, as have civilians, hospitals, and non-governmental aid groups. 

FB tease: Putin's press secretary said that Russia's air campaign is the reason why al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists are not in Damascus. The claim is highly suspect.

Twitter: Peskov: You Can Thank Russian Airstrikes For Keeping Islamic State & Al Qaeda Out Of Damascus

Polygraph.info fact-check:

Russia's air campaign in Syria has fallen under intense scrutiny in recent months as Western governments and NGOs have accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians and humanitarian aid groups. 

On September 30,  the press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, defended Russia's airstrikes and credited them for keeping certain terrorist groups out of Damascus. Vedomosti reports [http://www.vedomosti.ru/newsline/top/politics/news/2016/09/30/659196-peskov-nazval-glavnii-itog-operatsii-v-sirii]:

BLOCKQUOTE

The main result of the first year of the operation of the Russian Federation Air and Space Forces is the absence of terrorists in Damascus, Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for President Vladimir Putin believes.

"We can state one thing: taking into account that ISIL, Al Qaeda, and Nursa [groups banned in Russia-Ed] are not sitting in Damascus -- this is likely the main positive outcome of the support that our air force provided to the legitimate Armed Forces of Syria."

END BLOCKQUOTE 

There are many problems with this statement.

The first inaccuracy in Peskov's statement is that Al-Qaeda-linked groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (now called Jabhat Fatah al-Sham) are not working together. In 2015, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri condemned Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the extremist group Islamic state (IS). According to al-Zawahiri, al-Baghdadi was guilty of "sedition" and his declared caliphate was invalid [http://abcnews.go.com/International/al-qaeda-leader-al-zawahiri-declares-war-isis/story?id=33656684]. Despite unsubstantiated rumors of a possible merger on the horizon, Zawahiri's statements in May 2016 [http://www.rferl.org/a/al-qaeda-al-zawahri-plays-politics/27746829.html] confirmed that Al-Qaeda considers IS to be “Khawarij,” a historical Muslim sect of hyper-extremist deviants who are to be exterminated should they not repent. The two groups do not occupy the same physical space in Syria, and while Jabhat al-Nusra has fought alongside moderate anti-Assad fighting groups [http://www.rferl.org/a/syria-ramouseh-artillery-base-victory/27903617.html], IS has fought against those same rebels [http://www.rferl.org/a/tracking-islamic-state-turkey-syria-northern-aleppo-kurds/27944150.html]. 

The second inaccuracy is that IS is not located near Damascus. Even at the start of Russia's air campaign in September 2015, an analysis of IS's military positions done by The Institute For The Study Of War (ISW) makes it clear that IS was never positioned to take control of the capital [http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-uG0RqLuzRxI/VgwTS4xg7FI/AAAAAAAAEWU/G3IUstE90Zw/s1600/Russian%2BPosture%2Bin%2BSyria%2B27%2BSEP%2B2015-01.png]. 

Furthermore, very few Russian airstrikes have taken place near Damascus. ISW has extensively studied and mapped Russian airstrikes since the start of their air campaign, and there have been very few Russian airstrikes against the Damascus region over that period of time [http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-airstrikes-syria-september-30-2015-september-19-2016].

Additionally, a close analysis of Russia's air campaign shows that almost no Russian airstrikes have hit areas controlled by IS [http://www.rferl.org/a/islamic-state-russia-syria-narrative-western-news-agencies/27731160.html]. In fact, Russian airstrikes have, at various times, targeted Western-vetted groups that were fighting against IS, allowing the extremist group to gain territory [http://www.rferl.org/a/russia-unhelpful-game-in-syria/27820208.html].

While some Russian airstrikes have targeted territory controlled by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, moderate groups with no al-Qaeda affiliation have often been the target of Russia's bombing, as have civilians, hospitals, and non-governmental aid groups. On September 19, a Russian drone continuously monitored a UN aid convoy until it was hit by an airstrike which killed 19 civilians and 12 aid workers [http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/09/21/this-is-how-russia-bombed-the-un-convoy.html]. An expert with the United Nations has confirmed that the convoy was destroyed by an airstrike [http://www.rferl.org/a/un-syria-convoy-attack-air-strike/28033659.html]. On October 5, Doctors without Borders declared that Russia and Syria were repeatedly bombing hospitals across northern Syria[http://www.msf.org/en/article/syria-hospitals-hit-repeatedly-russian-and-syrian-airstrikes-condemning-hundreds-wounded]. The air strikes against civilian targets and emergency workers are one reason why the United States and Russia have ceased cooperation in Syria [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/10/262704.htm], cooperation which was intended to help both countries fight terrorism. 

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