The White House is pushing to cooperate with Putin’s forces in the fight against ISIS. But many in the U.S. military are saying: No way.
The Obama administration has increasingly warmed to a Russian proposal that allows U.S. forces to coordinate with the Kremlin in the ongoing war against ISIS in Syria. But the White House is facing major resistance to the idea from the U.S. military and those in the intelligence community who are working with local Syrian opposition forces—the very government officials who would carry out such a plan.
The pushback comes as the U.S. has reportedly sent a proposal to Russia to share information about specific targets to strike in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday in part to discuss the plan.
Some Pentagon officials already are saying it won’t work. They have suggested that should the U.S. and Russia agree to increased coordination, they will lobby to share as little with the Russians as possible.
There are discussions in the Pentagon about narrowing the extent of the coordination and the amount of intelligence shared, a U.S. defense official explained to The Daily Beast.
The Russians, two defense officials said, could not be trusted to honor any agreement, saying they believe Moscow would eventually exploit any agreement to bolster the regime—and weaken Syria’s beleaguered rebel fighters. As one U.S.official asked: “What do we gain?”
The internal debate about how much to expand U.S. coordination with the Russians has exposed perhaps the greatest schism within the administration this year over the way ahead in Syria.
Will it help end the war—and if so—for which side? Will it lead to a weaker ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria or an emboldened Russia and Syrian President Bashar al Assad?
The U.S. officials supporting increased coordination believe that ultimately Russia wants a political solution—an agreement between Assad and the rebels. Increased coordination could induce Russia to broker such a deal. On the ground, increased coordination could reduce civilian casualties and weaken terror groups like Jabhat al Nusra, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, one administration official explained to The Daily Beast.
“The regime needs to… end the indiscriminate use of weapons, including the targeting of civilians and civilian authorities, and including medical ones. And we look to the Russians to make a greater use of the influence that we know that they have to make that happen,” State Department spokesman John Kirby explained to reporters last week.
SOURCE: NANCY A. YOUSSEF
The Daily Beast