One of the more subtle effects of Russian airstrikes in Syria has been challenging this myth of the so-called moderate rebels. Ever since the Russians engaged militarily, at the request of the Syrian government, we've heard US politicians and pundits claim that it is US-backed "moderate rebels" who are being targeted by Russian air power. Is there any truth to this claim? The answer is - some.
Let us first be clear as to the stated and proven aims of the global powers (the US and Russia) involved in the conflict. The United States' primary objective remains the overthrow of the secular, independent government of Syria. Which is why the last year's worth of illegal US military action has resulted more territorial gains for ISIS and more destruction of civilian infrastructure. US foreign policy - both historically and present day - is one of inflicting terror, not fighting it.
Meanwhile, the primary objective of Russian military action in Syria is to destroy the terrorists, before they pose an imminent threat to the Russian homeland. In order to accomplish this, Moscow is providing air cover for the Syrian Arab Army (the national army of Syria) who, along with Hezbollah and other allied forces, has been most effective in the ground fight against terrorism. Furthermore, Moscow is not under Washington's illusion that "moderate rebels" exist somewhere in Syria. The Russians are well-aware that of the various groups attempting to topple the Syrian government, none are moderate and therefore all are legitimate military targets. And this where we find the discrepancy between the two narratives.
Official US policy toward Syria has been to degrade ISIS from the air while training "moderate rebels" to fight them on the ground. But after $500 million spent, the Pentagon has trained a whopping total of "four or five" fighters. Unofficial US policy, however, has been much more robust. Thousands of the terrorists sent into Syria were trained by the CIA. Arms and equipment, as well, were provided by the CIA. Which helps to explain the tragic justice of what occurred in Benghazi, Libya during September of 2012. It is these latter assets, not the former, who find themselves the targets of Russian air assault.
Simply put, for as long as another US invasion remains politically untenable, Washington seeks to preserve a local ground force of extremists that it can wield toward its geopolitical aims in the region. Hence, the desperation of American propagandists to convince us of the distinction between good terrorists and bad terrorists. Meanwhile, Moscow makes no such distinction. Whether it's Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), or Jabhat Al-Nusra, or the Army of Conquest, as far as the Kremlin is concerned, a terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist. And may the Russian Air Force continue to treat them heathens accordingly.