Washington: According to US defense officials, Russian air strikes in Syria did not target Islamic State (IS).
“The Russians were very clear publicly that they were going to strike ISIL,” said Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US-led counter-IS military campaign Operation Inherent Resolve on Thursday. “I’m not going to get into exactly who they hit, but we don’t believe that they struck ISIL targets.”
ISIL was another acronym for the extremist group now controlling a vast areas of lands in Iraq and Syria, Xinhua news agency reported.
“(In the place) where they (Russians) struck yesterday, we don’t believe there was any ISIL there,” Warren added.
Moscow began air strikes in Syria on Wednesday after weeks of military build-up around Syria’s coastal province of Latakia.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov strongly defended Moscow’s bombing campaign in Syria, saying it was targeting terrorist groups and not aimed at keeping President Bashar al-Assad in power.
“We see eye to eye with” the US-led coalition on targeting ISIL, al-Nusra, and other terrorist groups, Lavrov said at the United Nations headquarters.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday it is unacceptable that Russia and China are devaluating their currencies, days after the Treasury Department declined to label these countries as currency manipulators in its latest report.
Amid a possible new round of sanctions against Russia and a simmering trade war with China, Trump tweeted Monday morning, “Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable!
In general, when a country artificially devaluates its currency, its exports become cheaper and more competitive in the global marketplace.
During his presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly accused China of lowering the value of its currency and vowed to formally label China as a currency manipulator, but so far has failed to do so.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the administration is closely watching China’s currency practices. “That’s something that the Treasury Department is watching very closely and we’re continuing to monitor it,” she said Monday.
In a semiannual report titled “Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States” released last Friday, the Treasury Department did not designate China as a currency manipulator, but put it as one of the six countries on a monitoring list. The other five countries on the list are Japan, Korea, India, Germany, and Switzerland. Russia is not on the monitoring list. The Chinese currency, the renminbi, has appreciated over 3 percent against the dollar since the beginning of this year, after strengthening by over 6 percent in 2017.
Brad Setser,a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Treasury Department official said in an interview with VOA he does not think it is an accurate complaint that Russia and China are playing the currency game.
“The Russian ruble was actually quite stable before the sanctions on Russia were intensified. It’s quite clear the volatility in the ruble is a function of the intensification of U.S. sanctions, a sign that the sanctions are biting,” he explained.
Setser said over the past several months, the Chinese yuan has actually appreciated, and China has not been intervening heavily.
“There are plenty of things to criticize China for on trade, but right now, there’s no real basis for criticizing China on currency,” he noted.
In the past three years, the Federal Reserve raised interest rate six times to a range between 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent, and said they expect to raise the rate two or three more times this year.
Usually, when a country raises its interest rates, the value of its currency rises, making its exports more expensive and less competitive. However, higher U.S. interest rates have not raised the value of the dollar.
“The interesting puzzle that the market has been pondering for the past several months is that the dollar has actually weakened even as the U.S. has raised rates, and even as U.S. passed legislation to expand the fiscal deficit,” Setser said.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Economic Analysis at the Treasury Department Setser stressed the United States should not label China as a currency manipulator at this moment.
“It would undermine the United States’ credibility to name China at a point in time when there is no plausible case that China is managing its exchange rate in a way that is adverse to the U.S. interest,” he said. VOA