10/01/2015, 00.00
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Russia enters war against Isis in Syria, to applause of Orthodox and Muslims

by Nina Achmatova
According to the US, Moscow's first air raids did not target the Islamic State. Russia argues the accusations are unfounded and opens direct channels between the military leaders with Washington to avoid accidents. The Kremlin has to explain to Russians the reasons for this "third world war". All traditional religions support targeted air raids, but 69% of the population opposed to military aid to Assad.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - For the first time since 2008 - when Moscow went to war with Georgia – this time with the 'blessing' of Orthodox and Muslim leaders in the country - Russia has sent troops to military operations in Syria.

The Ministry of Defense explained that the struggle is "against Isis and terrorist groups in Syria” ambiguously referring to the real targets of Russian forces, which according to the US are not just the Islamic state, but also armed opposition groups - supported by Washington – who are fighting President Bashar al Assad.

In reality,  Assad’s future is at the centre of political negotiations accompanying military interventions. The first raid, according to Washington and the rebels, targeted areas that are not in the hands of ISIS (also creating 36 civilian casualties). Moscow instead argues that the infrastructure that was targeted, belonged to the Caliphate.

President Vladimir Putin - who only two days before, on September 28 - had met his colleague Barack Obama at the UN in an effort to reach agreement on coordinated action on the Syrian crisis, stressed that Russia "is not going to dive into this conflict "and will be limited to" air support "to the Syrian army engaged in" legitimate struggle against terrorists. "

The two points on which the Kremlin insists - for internal political reasons and to justify its move to the international community - are "the national interest" and legality of the operations, "fully in compliance with international law."

The fight against international terrorism can take place on the basis of a UN resolution or a request for military assistance in the country concerned ". Putin explained that "none of our international partners are meeting these requirements", reiterating that Moscow has received a formal request for military aid from Assad. According to the spokesman of the Kremlin, of all countries involved in the air raids on Isis, only the Russian Federation is that it is acting within the law.

Direct military contacts between the US and Russia

According to the UN special envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura, Russia’s military could break, "albeit in a painful and somewhat risky way, the stalemate in the civil war in Syria." Certainly Moscow and Washington were forced to collaborate. The result of a bilateral marathon between the heads of their respective foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, was the announcement of an agreement for direct contact between military commands to coordinate their air raids in the Arab Republic to be implemented as soon as possible. The agreement, as Lavrov explained, aims to "avoid senseless accidents." Moscow, however, is already working in coordination with Iraq, Syria and Iran, as part of the new information center opened recently in Baghdad and to which it has called all the countries concerned to fight ISIS to join.

Reassuring the Russian public

"National interests": that is how the Kremlin explains why the Russian intervention in Syria.  It claims that the risk - already reported for months by intelligence and political leaders - that the more than 2,400 compatriots already enrolled by ISIS will return home sooner or later. "We have to fight them before they get to us," Putin warned. Russia has experienced a series of attacks against civilians at the hands of Islamic terrorism in the Caucasus, where two wars were already fought. Dagestan, the republic with a Muslim majority in the south, is the epicenter of a strong instability and is in fact in constant anti-terrorism regime. However, so far there is no real data on the return of militants of the Islamic State and according to experts, the phenomenon has not yet begun.

According to a recent poll by the independent Levada Center, the number of Russians in favor of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict has increased in two years from 29 to 36%. But the majority of the population (69%) is opposed to sending troops to support him. Moscow has to explain to the Russians why, at a time of severe economic crisis, "it is entering a third world war against terrorists", as Kommersant newspaper wrote. In recent weeks, television has done its part, concentrating all the information on the refugee flow from the Middle East to Europe and the risks of Islamic terrorism, forgetting the war in eastern Ukraine, the undisputed protagonist for more than a year of talk shows and documentaries.

The government also needs to reassure the vast Muslim community (20 million followers) that this is not a war between Christian Russia and Islam. All the governors of the republics and regions with Muslim majorities, in several news programs, have expressed their support for the president's decision. The so-called traditional religions, recognized in the law on religious worship: Orthodoxy, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam, have flocked to the Kremlin’s defense. 

In a statement yesterday that the Inter-Religious Council hoped that the Russian fighter jets will "destroy terrorism and accelerate a return to peace ". Even the Mufti of Russia, who a few days ago attended the inauguration of the largest mosque in Europe in Moscow, has supported Putin’s interventionism.

 The Orthodox primate Kirill spoke of a "responsible decision", which aims to "defend the people of Syria from harm caused by the arbitrariness of the terrorists." "We believe this decision will help restore peace and justice to this ancient land," he added, quoted by Interfax. Earlier, the head of the Patriarchate for Relations between Church and Society spoke of "a holy war" against terrorists.


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