The Obama administration wants to cooperate with Russia to tackle al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Syria, but the Pentagon and intelligence community are doing their level best not to get on board.
Even if the U.S. military does get dragged into cooperation, Pentagon officials told The Daily Beast that they’ll push for as little information sharing as possible on target locations with the Russians.
Pentagon officials simply don’t trust Russia, as they believe Moscow will take advantage of the arrangement to support the existing Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and further obliterate what’s left of the Syrian rebel groups.
“What do we gain?” one official told The Daily Beast.
Josh Rogin of The Washington Post first reported the agreement forwarded by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in late June.
Officials backing the agreement believe that if the U.S. lends a hand with information on targets, Russia will be encouraged to push for an amicable political solution between the Assad regime and the rebels.
Additionally, increased coordination will likely hit al-Qaida hard.
But Pentagon officials believe Russia is completely duplicitous, citing Russia’s breach of a mutually agreed upon ceasefire with the U.S. in May in Aleppo. Russia apparently broke that agreement with a series of airstrikes that gave the Syrian army a decisive advantage and allowed it to capture Castello Road.
These same officials think that as soon as al-Qaida, which mixes fluidly with rebels groups, is destroyed, Russia will drop any promises to leave rebels alone to continue their fight against Assad. Russia has long-term strategic plans in Syria that include keeping Assad around, so it seems unlikely they would push for cooperation unless they saw a clear path to forward their plans.
“Russia is framing this offer in terms of counterterrorism and is proposing joint operations against both Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS, but of course Russia’s current campaign does not actually make such distinctions. The issue on the table, therefore, is whether it’s possible for the U.S. to redirect Russia into an actual counterterrorism alliance in which Russia halts targeting of acceptable opposition groups,” Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told The Daily Beast.
Kerry is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday to talk about the details of the plan.
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