Russia Goes to War in Syria - but Against Whom?
Russia's military has returned to Syria with a vengeance, and President Barack Obama has welcomed their involvement.
The Russians say they're targeting the Islamic State, but their motives are now being questioned, with some saying their real goal is to prop up the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad.
And the Russian military is not alone in coming to the defense of the Assad regime. Reuters reports hundreds of Iranian troops began arriving in Syria 10 days ago.
One Lebanese source also told the news agency that Russian airstrikes will also be accompanied "by the Syrian army and its allies." The forthcoming military operation would likely include Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, and would focus on recapturing territory currently occupied by anti-government rebels in northern Syria.
On Wednesday, Russian fighter jets dropped bombs deep into the heart of Syria. But instead of hitting ISIS, the bombers destroyed targets in Homs and Hama cities where only U.S.-backed rebels are fighting against the Assad regime.
An amateur video showed the mayhem and carnage left behind by the Russian airstrikes. People were seen screaming and fleeing, carrying the injured from the rubble.
CBN News' Senior International Reporters Gary Lane and George Thomas along with Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell discuss the current state of affairs with Syria and Russia. Watch below:
The Russians provided only an hour advance warning of the bombings. That potentially endangered American pilots already in Syrian airspace.
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry say they welcome Russian efforts to defeat ISIS.
But U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter questioned their motives, despite Russia's insistence that they hit 20 Islamic State targets, including a command center.
"It does appear that they were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces," Carter said. "And that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach."
So, it now appears Russia has entered Syria only to help prop up Bashar al-Assad's dwindling regime.
Even members of President Obama's own party are questioning the decision that gave Russia the green light to join the fight.
"The problem with Russia is we do not trust their motives. They are propping up Assad, who is a barbaric, tyrant leader of Syria," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said.
Some of the worst criticism came from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said Russia now has gained a foothold in Syria because of Obama's retreat from the Middle East.
McCain said there has been "a series of decisions or non-decisions which has led to the situation we see today, where Vladimir Putin may have inserted Russia into the Middle East in a way that Russia has not enjoyed since 1973, when the Russians were thrown out of Egypt."
Several years ago, Obama drew a red line over Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people. Today, many Americans are likely wondering if this president has the will to draw another red line in Syria--this time, against the Russians.