Russia-US talks on Syria

A report in Foreign Policy notes that in his UN speech yesterday opens the door to a possible US-Iran-Russia deal in Syria “President Barack Obama said Monday he is willing to work with two longtime military foes — Russia and Iran — to end nearly five years of civil war in Syria but stood firm on U.S. demands that President Bashar al-Assad give up power as a necessary pathway to peace. Obama’s olive branch was the flip side of the uncomfortable new reality he now faces in Syria and Shiite-led states in the Mideast. Russia, one of Assad’s longest and strongest benefactors, is boosting its military forces in Syria and doing so with the aid of Iran and even Iraq — a nation the United States has tried to turn into a reliable democratic ally”.

The report notes that “In a lengthy address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama made it clear that the rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, has overtaken the removal of Assad as America’s primary national security goal in Syria. He conceded that resolving the crisis would require all the international players, presumably including the United States, to make painful compromises for peace. “Realism dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and stomp out ISIL,” he said. “But realism also requires a managed transition away from Assad into a new leader and an inclusive government that recognizes there must be an end to the chaos.” Over the last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin has deployed fighter jets, attack helicopters, and Russian forces to Syria to shore up Assad”.

The article mentions that “For weeks, Russian diplomats signaled hope that Obama and Putin would meet during the summit, a proposal that was greeted with U.S. skepticism. However, last week, U.S. officials announced the meeting would occur and focus primarily on Ukraine and Russia’s responsibility in fostering a cease-fire there. But Moscow has its own plans. Kremlin officials said Monday’s meeting would be on Syria, where Russia has sought to assert itself more aggressively diplomatically and militarily”.

Interestingly the article mentions “Over the weekend, Iraq caught the Obama administration by surprise, announcing an intelligence-sharing agreement with Iran and Russia to coordinate military operations against the Islamic State and other extremist organisations. The move comes as the West announced its own plans to step up military activities in Syria. On Sunday, French President François Hollande announced that French fighter jets had carried out their first airstrikes against a purported Islamic State training camp near Deir al-Zor. Speaking to reporters Sunday at U.N. headquarters, Hollande said France would not send ground forces into Syria. But he defended France’s entry into the conflict, saying it was acting in self-defense to stop Syria-based extremists from planning attacks against France”.

 

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