The missile strikes launched yesterday hit their targets with accuracy and considerable destruction. Russia says that its intelligence shows that no “civilians” were affected.
But Russia’s definition of “civilians” is open to question.
Putin has described opposition politicians in Syria’s parliament as terrorists. It follows, then, that he regards all opposition, even non-violent opposition, as terrorists. Therefore, they are not, in his definition, civilians. That is plainly nonsense. Unfortunately, many of those opposition groups are, or are assisted by, Sunni interests. Therefore, by extension, Putin is, in effect, saying that Sunnis in Syria are terrorists and therefore legitimate targets.
However, he also says that violent opposition groups are terrorists, a charge that is difficult to deny under the usual definitions of terrorism. Many of these are, also, or are supported by, Sunni interests.
Like it or not, Putin’s policies are clear: he supports Shi’a against Sunni. His attacks are on Sunni positions, not limited to Da’esh.
But even if he did, in fact, attack Da’esh, is this going to work?