Reading the page-one story (accessible here via Google) by Adam Entous in today’s Wall Street Journal, I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. The Obama administration appears to be shocked, shocked that Vladimir Putin has not been entirely straightforward with them about Russian intentions in Syria. Entous reports:
Russia has targeted Syrian rebel groups backed by the Central Intelligence Agency in a string of airstrikes running for days, leading the U.S. to conclude that it is an intentional effort by Moscow, American officials said.
The assessment, which is shared by commanders on the ground, has deepened U.S. anger at Moscow and sparked a debate within the administration over how the U.S. can come to the aid of its proxy forces without getting sucked deeper into a proxy war that President Barack Obama says he doesn’t want. The White House has so far been noncommittal about coming to the aid of CIA-backed rebels, wary of taking steps that could trigger a broader conflict.
“On day one, you can say it was a one-time mistake,” a senior U.S. official said of Russia’s strike on one of the allied rebel group’s headquarters. “But on day three and day four, there’s no question it’s intentional. They know what they’re hitting.”
U.S. officials say they now believe the Russians have been directly targeting CIA-backed rebel groups that pose the most direct threat to Mr. Assad since the campaign began on Wednesday, both to firm up regime positions and to send a message to Mr. Obama’s administration.
Russian officials said last week that they had launched the air campaign in Syria to fight the extremist group Islamic State and other terrorists—adopting the language that the Syrian regime uses to refer to all its opponents. U.S. intelligence officials said the primary mission of the operation appeared to be shoring up the Assad regime and preventing rebels gaining any additional ground on government-controlled areas, rather than fighting Islamic State.
Hope abides, however, as the Obama administration continues to repose its faith in the good will of the Supreme Leader and lesser authorities leading the Islamic Republic of Iran.