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The Russian airstrikes on Syria are a sign that U.S. policy is working, a senior State Department official told shocked Syrian-American advocates in a private meeting on Monday.
The “Russians wouldn’t have to help Assad if we didn’t weaken him,” U.S. special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney said, according to multiple participants in the meeting and contemporaneous notes. Russian intervention, he went on to say, is a sign of success for American policy on Syria.
The special envoy’s remarks come even as Russia began launching long-range cruise missiles into Syria from the Caspian Sea. It’s a move that Pentagon officials called an attempt to both emasculate the United States and support the Assad regime.
“This is Russia demonstrating on a global stage that it has a lot of reach,” one U.S. defense official explained. “And we are not responding.”
Ratney’s boast also angered some of the Syrian-American advocates and humanitarian representatives gathered at the State Department for the meeting with him earlier this week. The United States has repeatedly declined to intervene militarily in Syria against the Assad regime, despite President Obama’s own claim of a “red line” for the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. As a matter of congressionally-mandated policy, the Pentagon will only train Syrian rebels who fight against the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS—and not Assad.
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