Obama’s proposed deal with Russia in Syria will entail cooperation between Russia and U.S. intelligence agencies and coordinated air strikes on Syrian rebels classified as terrorists, according to a draft proposal obtained by Josh Rogin of the Washington post.
Since the beginning of Russia’s intervention in Syria, it has sought U.S.-Russian intelligence sharing and coordinated strikes to legitimize its intervention in Syria. The coordination will target Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabat Al Nusra, one of the most effective forces on the battlefield against Assad’s regime. Per the agreement, the U.S. and Russia will establish a joint operations center inside Jordan that would house U.S. and Russian intelligence officers to coordinate strikes against the group.
The differences between the U.S. and Syrian Allies definition have never been more stark. Syria has painted U.S. backed rebels along with the moderate Free Syrian Army as terrorists. Russia has explicitly differed in its definition of terrorist, and have bombed U.S. backed assets on several occasions.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Moscow July 14 to discuss the proposal with the Kremlin. An acceptance of the proposal would mark a dramatic phase shift in U.S.-Russia relations and the U.S. strategy inside Syria. By agreeing to the proposal, the U.S. has made two central concessions to Syria and Russia.
With respect to Syria, the U.S. is removing the most effective battlefield force against Assad without offering any meaningful assistance to a any other rebel group to replace Assad. Despite an official U.S government line that Assad must go, the U.S. is essentially conceding that he will remain in power and that it will not play a leadership role in determining Syria’s future.
With respect to Russia, the U.S. is legitimizing its intervention inside Syria and will have to negotiate the definition of terrorist when striking targets. Russia has repeatedly designated any force opposing Assad as a terrorist, and in one case repeatedly bombed U.S. backed rebels despite requests from Washington to ceasefire. Beyond legitimizing Russia’s intervention in Syria, coordination between the U.S. and Russia would bring the U.S. and Russia closer after Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine and Georgia.
In an interview on NBC Nightly News on July 13, Assad continually framed the Syrian civil war as him against radical Islamic terrorists. Assad shrugged off accusations repeatedly rejecting any evidence of his wrongdoing implying photos of the atrocities were photoshopped by his enemies. Assad defended his bombing campaigns of civilians by implying they were terrorist supporters and thus legitimate targets.
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