Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Takes on David Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near East; Suggests He Read Up on What’s Been Going On

Zakharova briefing, Jan. 2018 (excerpts below)

Zakharova: I would like to quote remarks by David Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, who spoke during Senate hearings. He said that the United States does not understand Russia’s long-term strategy in Syria.

The official Foreign Ministry spokesperson holds weekly briefings, the transcripts of which are posted on the ministry’s official website. We focus extensively on Russia’s long-term strategy in Syria. The US State Department could have already introduced its high-ranking official to our statements, briefings, and transcripts of remarks made by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The Presidential Executive Office, primarily President Vladimir Putin, the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry talk daily about the steps that Russia is taking to resolve the situation in Syria …

How is that unclear? … We could not have anticipated such incompetence in an Acting Assistant Secretary of State.

In yet another statement,  Satterfield noted that the United States plans to act on Syria through the UN in opposition to the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. … This is a counterweight to Sochi … We cannot and will not legitimize a settlement process that is alternative to the one that Russia is pursuing.

Is he aware that Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was in Moscow and met with the Russian Foreign Minister and Defense Ministry? Is he aware that modalities were arranged to connect the UN directly to the holding of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi? Did he not hear the statements made by the UN Secretary-General and his special envoy? …

It is striking that the United States openly talks about opposing the Congress. It may well be that they are trying to package the events in Sochi as something in opposition to the processes unfolding in Geneva. We have repeatedly said that all these processes are intertwined. A full-fledged settlement is impossible without Geneva and Astana, or without connecting the negotiation platforms, which have been active over the past several years. … What is surprising, though, is that the opposition to holding the Congress in Sochi is now stated openly, in particular, by US diplomats. It is now becoming clear why some Syrian opposition groups are saying that they do not have a clear position with regard to participating in the Congress. It is clear who is behind this and who is actively hampering this process. (Emphasis added)

In yet another statement … Satterfield pointed out that while Russia announced that the fight against ISIS in Syria is over, the United States and its coalition partners do not consider this to be an end to the efforts. This is sheer lack of understanding of what Russia is doing and has been doing in Syria. Originally, Russia suggested – just in case recently appointed or yet to be appointed high-ranking US State Department officials are unaware of it – joining efforts in fighting ISIS and other terrorist groups, and doing so on an international legal basis.

Shortly afterwards, when we failed to hear, first of all, from the United States – as the leader of some anti-terrorist coalitions in Syria – confirmation of its desire to work together, Russia had to start that operation to counter terrorist groups which you observed, almost openly, sometimes online, as you visited the regions. During this operation, we have repeatedly stated that the United States and the international coalition that it leads provide direct support to certain terrorist groups.

Certain politicians in the United States claim that it was not Russia that scored such a truly major victory in the decisive battle against ISIS, but the United States. Now, everything is distorted and portrayed as if the United States was left there face to face with the enemy. It is just lack of understanding of what is actually happening in that region.

I would like to turn to specific subjects. The number of provocations by Jabhat al-Nusra militants and radical illegal armed formations, including attacks against Russian military bases, increased markedly in Syria in the first days of 2018. By the way, David Satterfield could share a lot of interesting information about the role of the United States in supporting this entity with US legislators. …