Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama’s plan to cooperate with Russia in Syria has met widespread objection from nearly all partners in the U.S. Anti-ISIS coalition, within the U.S. government, and from non-jihadist Syrian opposition groups fighting on the battlefield.
Pentagon officials heavily objected to the deal after Russia went so far as to bomb a secret operating base for U.S. special operators inside Syria last month, ostensibly to increase the pressure on Obama and Kerry. Kerry and his defenders say working with Russia is the only way to limit a U.S. expansionary role in Syria for years to come.
Opponents of the deal point out that by cooperating with Russia, the U.S. will have to negotiate the very definition of terrorist, and could inadvertently bomb moderate rebels who only oppose the Assad regime. Russia has repeatedly painted any force that opposes the Assad regime as a terrorist organization. Obama and Kerry’s decision to work with Putin in Syria legitimizes Russia’s intervention and may remove any opposing force to Assad.
The deal will also create a joint-intelligence site on the Jordanian border housing both U.S. and Russia intelligence officials who will work to find targets inside Syria. Several opponents of the deal have pointed out extensive Russian spying on U.S. institutions and believe sharing intelligence with Russia would endanger the integrity of U.S. intelligence networks.
An anonymous senior official highlighted to Reuters two central problems with the administration’s plan, “One: The Russians’ aim in Syria is still either keeping Assad in power or finding some successor who is acceptable to them. … And two: Putin has proved over and over again, and not just in Syria, that he cannot be trusted to honor any agreement he makes if he decides it’s no longer in Russia’s interest.”
“He is, in his Kerry way, optimistic. But the devil is in the details, and we’re not convinced that Moscow is serious,” one senior European diplomat told Reuters. Moscow reneged heavily on an agreed upon ceasefire in early 2016 which collapsed despite heavy support and praise by Kerry and Obama.
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