Why US-Russia talks on Syria will lead to nowhere
The fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda should indeed be a joint effort – but not with any of the Assad regime’s key allies
If President Obama’s administration really did intensify cooperation with the Russian military in Syria – as recent reports have indicated they may be planning – the US would be forced to silence its own calls for Bashar al-Assad’s departure and would lose any remaining credibility with the Syrian opposition and the fighters its supporting on the ground.
It is difficult to assess how the administration would plan to up cooperation with an actor that has repeatedly sabotaged DC’s own strategic interests in Syria or how the US and Moscow would come even remotely close to agreeing on which groups should be targeted in coordinated airstrikes. Given that Russia’s own definition of what constitutes a terrorist organization in Syria is: Any group opposed to the criminal Assad regime, there is every reason to assess the talks will lead to nowhere while Syria, most especially Aleppo, burns.
The Russian military is guilty of a mounting number of war crimes, including conducting airstrikes on hospitals and medical clinics with total impunity. The US must maintain a level of moral clarity and refuse to cooperate with such an actor. The international community, including the US, has failed Syrians at every stage of this conflict; it would be indefensible for the US to now partner with one of the chief supporters of Syrians’ primary enemy.
Moral issues aside, Russia has repeatedly and intentionally targeted US-backed forces on the ground. What must continue to be reiterated is that the primary goal of Russia’s intervention in Syria is to secure the future of the disgraced Syrian government and they will work to obliterate all factions that threaten such a reality. As recently as last month, Military Times reported that the Russian Air Force twice targeted New Syrian Army members in al-Tanf on June 16, reportedly prompting anger from the Pentagon.
Stopping the bombs
That the US has not yet successfully pressured Russia to stop bombing the forces DC is backing on the ground is perhaps the strongest evidence that military cooperation between the two remains extraordinarily unlikely. Russia will never be a true partner to the US in Syria; the continued talks between the two countries should instead be focused on the dire humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country and addressing the regime’s utter disregard for the basic tenets of international law.
The fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda should indeed be a joint effort – but not with any of the Assad regime’s key alliesBrooklyn Middleton
The latest three-day sham ceasefire unilaterally declared by Assad came to a conclusion on July 8 – with reports indicating that approximately 60 people were killed in both airstrikes and attacks by rebels on the final day alone. Meanwhile, the very last road to Aleppo has reportedly been cut off by regime forces, trapping hundreds of thousands of people; the long-feared development could lead to the utter slaughter and starvation of thousands. It is not the time for meaningless talks while Syria bleeds itself to death. Future discussions between Russia and the US should focus on how critical humanitarian aid will be transferred and how to prevent coming atrocities in besieged Aleppo. The fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda should indeed be a joint effort – but not with any of the Assad regime’s key allies.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.