As the political fallout continues from the recent WikiLeak’s Democratic National Committee email hack, and allegations that Russia is behind the hacks swirl, Secretary of State John Kerry has been meeting with his Russian counter-part, Sergei Lavrov, in an effort to create a plan for military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Russia in Syria.
The revelations from the DNC hack, mixed with the tense foreign policy situation in Syria, highlight how domestic political drama can influence fragile foreign policy discussions. The allegations that Russia may be behind the DNC hack complicate President Barack Obama’s efforts to leave a positive legacy on the Syria crisis, which is widely considered a stain on the president’s record.
White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest was asked repeatedly Monday for White House reaction on the DNC hack and on allegations that the Russians were responsible. Earnest was adamant in his position that the White House would refrain from commenting on the matter, pending an FBI investigation that was announced the same day.
“This particular situation is still being investigated by the FBI, and I just don’t want to do anything, or say anything, that would make their investigation more complicated than it already is,” Earnest said, deflecting one of many questions related to the DNC email hack.
In recent weeks, Obama and Kerry have been angling for an agreement includes intelligence and military cooperation between the U.S.s and Russia on airstrikes against terrorist groups in Syria, such as the Al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. The plan would prohibit the Syrian air force from striking what the United States considers moderate rebel groups.
While the plan has not been finalized, and talks are expected to continue into August, the plans would include the establishment of a joint intelligence center, where both American and Russian military officials would be located. The idea of sharing intelligence capabilities and information with the Russian’s is already facing significant scrutiny, and the specter that Russia may be behind the DNC hack only deepens mistrust between Washington and Moscow.
National security experts and top military officials have been critical of the White House and its Syria strategy, including the latest proposal. As Reuters reported, several U.S. military and intelligence officials called the plan naive, and said Kerry risks falling into a trap that Russian President Vladimir Putin has laid, “to discredit the United States with moderate rebel groups and drive some of their fighters into the arms of Islamic State and other extremist groups.”
The Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti reported earlier today that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that any cooperation deal reached by the Obama administration with Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be founded on trust. “We’re not entering into a transaction that’s founded on trust. There will be specific procedures and processes in any transaction we might have with the Russians that would account for protecting our operational security,” Dunford said.
President Obama is down to his last six months as President, and the latest proposal being hashed between Washington and Moscow may be one of his last attempts at coming up with an effective strategy to bring peace in Syria, a place where hundreds of thousands of civilians have died since March 2011.
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