WASHINGTON – Reports of heavy civilian casualties from Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria are one key reason why Washington is unlikely to coordinate airstrikes with Moscow against Islamic State, US officials told Reuters, even as President Barack Obama left the door
ajar on Tuesday to military cooperation with the Kremlin.
Appearing at a White House news conference with his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, Obama reiterated that Russia was “welcome to be part of this broad-based coalition that we’ve set up.” But first, he said, it must shift its focus from propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad and redirect its airstrikes away from moderate rebels to hit Islamic State militants. US officials, however, said there are other obstacles to Russian participation in the US-led coalition of some 60 nations that is hitting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. From the White House to the Pentagon, officials are concerned about widespread reports of mounting civilian casualties from Russian air strikes, even though the issue has received far less public attention than the Assad government’s use of “barrel bombs” against unarmed civilians.