For the Obama administration, countering Russia and Syria’s deadly air strikes against civilians means engaging in “tougher talk,” according to reports.
A response to the continuing humanitarian crisis in Syria would “begin at tougher talk,” an administration official told Reuters Thursday. But before that is even an option, another official said the White House would have to “follow through on [Secretary of State] Kerry’s threat and break off talks with the Russians.”
Obama has remained intransigent on Syria since the crisis began five years ago. Despite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s massacring of civilians across the country, two failed attempts at a ceasefire in the last year, Assad’s use of chemical weapons, a letter from 50 U.S. diplomats urging intervention and the deaths of as many as 400,000 Syrians, the administration insists it has no recourse in Syria.
The administration’s unwillingness to get involved in Syria caused rebel groups, which were once secular, to join forces with radical Islamic terrorist organizations such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), formerly known as the Nusra Front.
Secretary Kerry made an attempt to reengage with Russia, Assad’s key ally, in September in order to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The two sides agreed on a week-long ceasefire with hopes that it would lead to a more permanent solution. The agreement was dead on arrival, with many Syrian opposition groups disregarding the ceasefire from the outset. Assad, backed by Russia, would resume fighting just hours after the ceasefire’s end, unleashing a torrent of air strikes against civilian positions. Kerry responded by warning Russia that the U.S. would cut off future talks.
The lightning-fast advance of Assad’s forces in the besieged city of Aleppo and Kerry’s failed diplomacy caught the administration off guard, two officials admitted to Reuters. The White House has now been forced to adopt new options, though Russia warns that any intervention by the U.S. would result in “terrible tectonic shifts” in the region.
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