The Pentagon on Thursday accused Russia of “double dealing” in Syria — agreeing to a cease fire in its seven-year civil war, but then supporting Syrian forces bombing civilians in East Ghouta.
“Russia agrees to a cease fire, but supports a regime that continues bombing innocent civilians,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White.
“Russia could stop the civilian casualties in Syria. Instead, their double dealing is exacerbating the loss of innocent lives. The Russians made a deliberate choice not to restrain the Assad regime. Thus, the carnage in east Ghouta continues. Russia is morally complicit and responsible for Assad’s atrocities,” she added.
The Trump administration has recently begun taking a harder line against Syria, after expressing a desire to work closer together to solve international problems.
Earlier in the day, the administration sanctioned 19 Russian individuals and five Russian entities for trying to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, and for various cyberattacks, including the attack dubbed “NotPetya.”
The Pentagon has also begun using harsher rhetoric against Russia in recent weeks, primarily in regards to Russian military behavior in Syria.
Russia sent forces to Syria in 2015 to shore up the Assad regime in its seven-year civil war. Russian leaders claimed they were targeting the Islamic State, but reportedly targeted civilians with indiscriminate attacks using barrel bombs and chemical weapons.
The U.S. also has forces in Syria who are targeting the Islamic State, but at the same time are pushing for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Last month, the U.S. pushed through a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire.
“We urge Russia to compel the Assad regime to stop killing innocent Syrians and allow much needed aid to reach the people of east Ghouta and other remote areas. We support our diplomats in their efforts to resolve the conflict with the United Nations-backed Geneva process,” White said.
White also reiterated Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s warning to the Assad regime on using chemical weapons against civilians.
“It would be ill-advised for the Assad regime to use any gas. I think this administration has been quite clear,” she said.
When the Syrian military used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians last year, President Trump ordered airstrikes against Syrian military targets.
“Russia has a pattern of saying one thing and then doing another. And we’ll continue to call them on that,” White said.