Thursday, 30 June 2016
Obama proposes new military partnership with Russia in Syria
'The Obama administration has proposed a new agreement on Syria to the Russian government that would deepen military cooperation between the two countries against some terrorists in exchange for Russia getting the Assad regime to stop bombing U.S.-supported rebels.
The United States transmitted the text of the proposed agreement to the Russian government on Monday after weeks of negotiations and internal Obama administration deliberations, an administration official told me. The crux of the deal is a U.S. promise to join forces with the Russian air force to share targeting and coordinate an expanded bombing campaign against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, which is primarily fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“One big flaw is that it’s clear that the Russians have no intent to put heavy pressure on Assad,” said former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. “And in those instances when the Russians have put pressure on, they’ve gotten minimal results from the Syrians.”
There’s not enough reliable intelligence to distinguish Jabhat al-Nusra targets from the other rebel groups they often live near, Ford said. And even if the Syrians agreed not to bomb certain zones, there would be no way to stop Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups from moving around to adjust. Moreover, increased bombing of Jabhat al-Nusra would be likely to cause collateral damage including civilian deaths, which would only bolster the group’s local support.
Kerry has been threatening for months that if Assad doesn’t respect the current cease-fire, known as the “cessation of hostilities,” that there was a “Plan B” of increasing arms to the Syrian rebels. But the White House has now scuttled that plan in favor of the proposed Russia deal, which could actually leave the rebels in a far worse position.