As concerns grow over Russia's military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), U.S. officials are stressing how interconnected Assad and the terror group are in the war-torn country.
"The secretary [of state] and more importantly President Obama is very clear that there can be no way to get at ISIL in the long term until you deal with Assad because so many of the jihadis who are flowing into Syria are coming because of the horrors that Assad is inflicting on his people. So they're very related," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning," using an alternate acronym for ISIS.
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There are currently a total of 28 Russian combat aircraft and 16 helicopters in Syria, according to CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, and the speed of Russians' military buildup has taken the U.S. by surprise.
"Russia has introduced a new dynamic, it appears, but we will deconflict with them operationally," Power said. "Our target is ISIL. If they pursue the Assad approach, it's only going to create challenges to our anti-ISIL effort."
The "Assad approach," Power said, includes gassing and barrel-bombing Syrian civilians, which empowers ISIS.
Asked whether the U.S. can trust Russian President Vladimir Putin, Power expressed her concerns, acknowledging the complicated relations between the two countries.
"I think that clearly [Russia's] actions in Ukraine, in effect lopping off part of a neighbor, and the disregard for international law is highly problematic," she said. "I'm on the Security Council with Russia, work with them every day on peace-keeping. We work together on the Iran deal. It's a very complex relationship. We walk and chew gum at the same time."
However, Power said the U.S. has had "considerable successes" in partnering with Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
"In fact, the Turkish-Syrian border, which used to be a free-for-all for ISIL -- now all but 68 miles of it is in the hands of responsible actors. So I think we are looking for ways in which we can reinforce that and continue to push out against ISIL," Power said.
In addition to the U.N. General Assembly meeting next week, Power is leading a #FreeThe20 campaign highlighting the plight of female political prisoners around the world.
"At the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, we have hung the portraits of now 13 women -- we're going to get up to 20 -- who could make a vital contribution to their societies but who are being silenced," Power said. "China is hosting the 20-year commemorative anniversary of this, and yet there are three Chinese women who are a part of our 'Free The 20' and many more who they represent. So we want to draw attention, get past the diplomatic abstractions, draw attention to real women who could be contributing but who are being disempowered and imprisoned instead of empowered."
On Tuesday, the campaign featured Naw Ohn Hla, a Burmese land rights activist and co-founder of Democracy and Peace Women Network, who Power said was sentenced Monday toan additional four months in prison on top of her six-year term.
"She's serving hard labor only for trying to ensure that poor people can basically keep their land and not have it seized by corporations," Power said.