The United States is offering Russia a new military pact against the Islamic State and al-Qaida in Syria, according to a leaked U.S. proposal.
If finalized, the arrangement could dramatically alter America’s role in the Arab country’s five-year civil war.
The document published by The Washington Post calls for joint bombing operations, a command-and-control headquarters and other synchronized efforts. U.S. and Russian officials with expertise in intelligence, targeting and air operations will “work together to defeat” the extremist groups, the eight-page paper states.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was to discuss the proposal in Russia’s capital later Thursday, declined to comment.
“I’m going to Moscow, meeting with President (Vladimir) Putin tonight,” Kerry told reporters in Paris. “We’ll have plenty of time to talk about it and I’ll give you all a sense of where we are.”
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said only that joint U.S.-Russian efforts were key to fighting terrorism in the region.
Such a partnership would undercut months of U.S. criticism of Russia’s military intervention in Syria. And it would put the U.S. alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chief international backer, despite years of American demands for Assad to leave power.
Russia would be getting what it has wanted since intervening in Syria in late September: An international alliance of sorts. Washington previously rebuffed Moscow’s requests for military cooperation, accusing the Russians of using anti-terrorism objectives as a pretext for protecting Assad’s position. The U.S. also says Syria’s military and Russia’s air force have repeatedly violated truces with moderate rebel groups backed by the U.S. or its allies.
U.S. officials said no agreement with Moscow has yet been reached. Prospects for such a deal are unclear.
“We’re not going to comment on details of documents that have not been approved or agreed to,” said a senior State Department official, who wasn’t authorized to speak on the matter and demanded anonymity.
The proposed, U.S.-Russian “Joint Implementation Group” would be headquartered near Amman, Jordan. At its most basic level, the former Cold War foes would share intelligence and targeting information. But they “should coordinate procedures to permit integrated operations,” if the U.S. and Russia decide such operations are in their interests.
Russia would confine air strikes to vetted targets and not let Syrian forces bomb “designated areas.” Some exceptions apply.
The military partnership is part of what U.S. officials are terming a final offer to Moscow. In exchange, the U.S. wants the Russians to pressure Assad into ending a bombing campaign against moderate militant groups and civilian populations, and allowing unfettered aid to besieged, rebel-held areas. Washington also wants Russia’s help in forcing Assad to start a political transition that would ultimately end his family’s four-decade hold over the country.
Russia supports the vague idea of “transition,” but has never publicly spoken of Assad having to resign.
The proposal would address one of the most persistent problems with efforts to enforce a ceasefire in Syria: the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syria affiliate. The group is engaged in a variety of local alliances with other rebel groups the U.S. and its Arab allies want shielded by the so-called cessation of hostilities. And Nusra’s fighters are often embedded with such groups on the battlefield or move between various fighting formations.
For that reason, the U.S. has almost entirely avoided bombing Nusra targets in recent months. Russia hasn’t hesitated. But in taking out Nusra forces, the U.S. says Russia also has killed hundreds of moderate, anti-Assad fighters and civilians — undermining chances for peaceful diplomacy.
Captain Abdelsalam Abdurrazek, a spokesman for Nur al-Din Zenki, a CIA-vetted rebel entity fighting near Aleppo, decried the U.S. for offering “to support an ally of the Syrian regime and an enemy of the Syrian people.” He said his group would continue fighting alongside Nusra.
Thursday’s talks in Moscow are scheduled fewer than three weeks before an August ultimatum by President Barack Obama’s administration for diplomatic progress. All signs augur poorly for a breakthrough in a war that has killed as many as a half-million people since 2011, contributed to a global migration crisis and spawned IS’ international expansion.
Fighting rages near Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Assad has reasserted control over several areas of the country he had once lost. Humanitarian aid deliveries are sporadic and grossly insufficient. And counterterrorism campaigns against the IS and al-Qaida show no end in sight, meaning any peace would only be partial.
Two months ago, Kerry said the transition had to start on Aug. 1, or Syria and its backers are “asking for a very different track.” But any Plan B has remained undefined beyond vague hints of a military intervention involving Saudi troops. The White House and Pentagon have resisted a greater U.S. role.
Much of Washington is wary about working too closely with Russia. The U.S. doesn’t want to be seen as entrenching Assad, whom American officials have referred to as a “butcher” and “mass murderer.” Russia’s bombers also have attacked anti-Assad rebel groups that have received weapons, training and other forms of support from the U.S. and allies such as Saudi Arabia — whose foreign minister Kerry met in Washington earlier this week.
And a dissent cable signed by 51 State Department officials last month showed a sizeable part of America’s diplomatic establishment believing a U.S. military response against Assad’s forces was necessary, given Moscow’s increased leverage as a result of its intervention.
Opposition to the administration’s newest Syria plan is shared by a significant number of officials at the State Department, Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community, according to several American officials.
But beyond reaching out to Russia, the administration has few other options right now. Suggestions of U.S. force don’t carry much weight, given the various, unfulfilled threats throughout the war — from Obama’s declaration five years ago that Assad’s days were “numbered” to his vow of a military response if chemical weapons were used, only to back down in 2013.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
It’s about time!
don’t trust the usa, they are so corrupt, they want to rule the world by themselves, please do not trust the usa, they are warmongers, period
Justin W says
ISIS made a huge strategic mistake by killing Americans and other westerners, invading Iraq, and declaring the United States to be their number one enemy. If they would have targeted Russians and Iranians, America would probably have helped them rather than try to destroy them. Like so much of the Middle East, those fighting in Syria have done a bad job coming up with war strategies.
Big G says
Getting along with Russia is not a bad idea. Getting the heck out of the region entirely is even a better one.
do not trust THEME NOTE WON WORD THY SAY
Arthur Hartsock says
A fu***ng men, brother. Get out of that Mideast quagmire. We surely don’t need their oil. And Israel is strong enough to protect themselves. We just need to stay out of their way when they have to take care of business. So, yes, evacuate all troops now.
chris norton says
One can only imagine what that fool Kerry will concede to Putin. What ever it is, the American people will never know the real truth
Russia should just tell America to F-OFF and DIE.
Find ONE promise America KEPT.
It makes sense considering the circumstances. Russia is our natural ally against Islamic terrorism as they face the same problems we do vis a vie Muslims. Now only if we can get them to abandon aid to the lunatics in Tehran. After all they will cause problems for the Russians sooner or later as well.
A. Magnus says
This is a red herring – the ONLY reason the US wants to coordinate with Russia is to find out where the Russians are bombing next so the US can help its cannibal jihadi terrorists escape. Obama paid top dollar to arm and train those terrorists to overthrow Assad and steal his oil, and by golly he wants his money’s worth…
Tim Hadfield says
The USA will just be trying to tie Putin’s hands, while they go about removing Assad.
this was Trumps idea first second. Would never make a deal with Obama who he utterly hates. this is BS for American consumption before elections to boost Obamas train wreck middle east policy. Obama thinks we forget, Iran deal disaster. Obamas Saudi deal that led to falling price for oil that impacted the soviet union financially 70% drop that resulted in devaluation of their money. Obamas pull out of middle east causing the rise of Isis and jihad. if there was a deal offer made it would certainly be another disaster. THERE are 250 million Muslims ,Islamic in RUSSIA . maybe more. we would have to accept Assayd to make a deal. if growing concerns for expanded terrorist growth. we would need to ally with Russia . only Trump could do this and could lead the way to open mutual benefits( trade) for Russia and US. WE could deal with Isis more effectively.
That’s a purposely leaked piece of disinformation. Kerry isn’t going there for making a deal on joint campaign with Russia. He rejected all such offers from Russia a million times already.
He will probably persuade Russia to accept a corridor in Syria at its western border for laying some pipeline.
Remember US has no intention of letting peace prevail. It’s a matter of bread and butter for them.
Good USA, UK, RUSSIA all the non Islamic world have only one enemy, as a patriotic Englishman there are events in my nations history I am proud of and some I am ashamed of, one of the latter was the British support for Turkey in the Crimean War, what the hell were the Victorians thinking of, the Czar would have reclaimed Constantinople for the West and sent the Turks back over the Bosphorus where they belong.