Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
November 23, 2015

From Russia With Love: Pounding Syria in the Name of Paris

So it looks like Reuters has aligned with Obama in calling out Russia’s military response to last week’s terror.

In light of the ISIS attack in France, and the previous destruction of a Russian passenger flight over Egypt, the Russians conducted a full scale bombing assault in Syria this past weekend. Insisting that their campaign was aimed exclusively at the Islamic State, Russia’s state PR plastered the media with handout photos capturing military scenes with Putin, but especially, aircraft preparation and aerial operations. The rub is that many, including the administration, doubt Russian’s aims or claims about anything it’s doing there.

Obama didn’t mince words, saying on Sunday (via CNS News) that:

the focus of Russia’s air campaign in Syria has been “the moderate opposition” and its principal goal appears to have been “to fortify the position of the Assad regime.”

Reuters conveyed that same doubt in a visual way, using the composition of a slideshow to frame an editorial statement. Titling their 21 photo presentation with the umbrella phrase: “Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria,” Reuters interspersed Russian handouts of the military operation with file photos, some from last month, others as fresh as last week, featuring physical damage and civilian casualties in anti-government, rebel-held Syrian villages. The captions reference local activist or citizens that Russian planes were responsible.

Given the dubiousness, what could be more ironic than a Russian handout photo, “For Paris,” penned to a bomb, attached to a fighter jet, being prepped for Syria? Given how the Russians are using ISIS to distract from its support for Assad, the phrase, though, might be as murky as its author’s intent. “For” can refer to “in defense of” or “in retaliation for,” but it can also be construed as “in the name of.” In light of Russia’s passive-agressiveness when it comes to a united front, however, “for Paris” seems targeted as much against Europe.

(photo: Friday, November 20, 2015. Reuters via Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation. caption: A Russian ground crew member writes the words “For Paris” on a bomb on a Russian military jet at the Hmeymim air base near Latakia, Syria.)

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