Any tenuous hope that the United States and Russia could constructively collaborate in Syria seemed to vanish when Russia announced – with an hour’s notice to Washington – that it was starting air strikes. The target was claimed to be the Islamic State, but President Vladimir Putin’s airplanes were in fact attacking other parts of Syria, not held either by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad or IS. Instead, they appeared to be hitting areas where the non-IS opposition is strong. Much of that opposition is tied to the West’s allies in the region, and not to IS.
John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, had said shortly before the air strikes that, if the Russians did what they have now done, it would be of “grave concern.”