President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have pushed through a plan to cooperate with Russia’s military in Syria, in exchange for Russian pressure on the Assad regime to stop bombing U.S. backed rebels, Josh Rogin of the Washington Post reports.
Under the agreement, the U.S. will share information on Al Qaida targets inside Russia. Al Qaida in Syria is primarily fighting the Syrian regime, who is Russia’s partner. Russia insists it is in Syria to fight terrorism, despite primarily targeting opposition groups. Russia has long desired U.S. cooperation in the Syrian fight in order to legitimize its narrative.
“The Russians have no intent to put heavy pressure on Assad,” former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told The Washington Post. Russia consistently reneges on its pledges to pressure the Syrian regime to stop bombing certain targets. In the cases where Russia has carried out its promises, the Syrian regime has been loathe to cooperate.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter reportedly opposes the plan on the grounds that any military cooperation legitimizes Russia. Moscow has been a pariah on the world stage since its illegal annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine in 2014. “The Russians have made it very clear that they want military-to-military cooperation with the U.S., not just to fight terrorism, but to improve their world standing,” Andrew Tabler, an expert at The Washington Institute, told The Washington Post.
In February, the U.S. and Russia announced a cessation of hostilities in the Syrian civil war, with several Syrian rebel groups included. Russia consistently violated the agreement, bombing any group that posed a threat to the Syrian regime’s ground position.
The deal reportedly does not contain any consequences for Russia or the Assad regime if they renege on their agreements. The agreement does however require the U.S. to provide highly classified information to Russia and Syria, in the hope they do not exploit the information for purposes contrary to U.S. objectives.
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