Russia is behind recent tensions between the US and Turkey, with Moscow’s role in Syria impacting relations between the two NATO allies, a high-ranking general said Tuesday.
Speaking during Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, General Joseph Votel said Russian support of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime has not only propped it up but also increases the complexity of the defeat-Daesh campaign as Moscow plays the role of both "arsonist and firefighter", fueling tensions among various parties in the region, including the US and other coalition partners and then serving as an arbiter to resolve disputes.
Votel said Turkey's ongoing military operation in Syria has led to a "little bit of tension" between Washington and Ankara that the two sides are working through largely diplomatically but also militarily to overcome.
Turning to a question about the US’ stance on Syria's city of Afrin, Votel said the US has not operated there and has no intention of doing so. "The concern we have is that the activities up in Afrin are a distraction to our defeat-Daesh activities right now, and there has been an impact to that." he said, referring to Turkey's military operation to remove terror groups in Afrin.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked if the US’ policy on Syria was still to seek the removal of Assad from power. "I don’t know that that’s our particular policy at this particular point. Our focus remains on the defeat of Daesh." Votel said.
Senator Graham said "If you don’t know what your policy is, i doubt that anyone would, because it is your duty to take care of that part of the world." in response.