Jackass’ Syria plan with Russia faces deep skepticism
Yara Bayoumy, Jonathan Landay, John Walcott, Lesley Wroughton, John Irish, Maria Tsvetkova, Idris Ali, Reuters, Jul 24 2016
Jackass after meeting the anti-Daesh Coalition in Faschinstein, Jul 21 2016. (Photo: Joshua Roberts)
FASCHINGSTEIN – Skeptics in the Pindosi government, European
allies vassals in the anti-Daesh coalition and the main Syrian opposition, distrustful of Russia’s intentions, are questioning Jackass Kerry’s latest proposal for closer Pindo-Russian cooperation against extremist groups in Syria. Several Pindosi military and intelligence boxtops called the plan naive, and said Jackass risks falling into a trap that Putin has laid to discredit Pindostan with moderate rebel groups and drive some of their fighters into the arms of Daesh and other extremist groups. Some European members of the coalition against Daesh have expressed concern about sharing intelligence with Russia, which they say has been an untrustworthy partner in Syria. The current proposal, which Jackass hopes to conclude within weeks, envisions ways in which Faschingstein and Moscow would share intelligence to coordinate air strikes against the AQ-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and prohibit the Syrian air force from attacking moderate rebel groups. Jackass’s State Dept and White House allies say the plan is the best chance to limit the fighting. In the end, according to two officials who support Jackass’ efforts, there is no alternative to working with the Russians. Former White House Middle East advisor Philip Gordon, now with the CFR, said:
There are reasons to be skeptical, as with any approach in Syria, but those who criticize this plan as unlikely to work or flawed on other grounds, like working with Russia, have the responsibility of presenting something better or more effective.
Jackass’ critics say the plan is flawed, in part because as it now stands it would leave the Russians and Syrians free to use ground troops and artillery against moderate groups fighting Assad. They also say targeting Nusra is difficult because in some areas its fighters are comingled with more moderate rebels. One Pindo boxtop said:
That underscores two basic problems that Jackass seems to be ignoring: One, the Russians’ aim in Syria is still either keeping Assad in power or finding some successor who is acceptable to them and two, Putin has proved over and over again and not just in Syria, that he cannot be trusted to honor any agreement he makes if he decides it’s no longer in Russia’s interest.
Jackass and Lavrov will have an opportunity to meet this week at the ASEAN summit in Laos. Jackass told reporters on Friday that Obama had “authorized and ordered this track” and that the plan would be based on specific steps, not trust. But even Jackass has refrained from voicing optimism, instead saying the effort was showing “a modicum of promise.” A European boxtop said:
Jackass and Lavrov have agreed to draft a map showing where Jabhat al-Nusra operates. The two sides would then through joint analysis, decide who to target, by getting Pindostan in the same tactical room. Moscow would then have to guarantee that Assad’s planes stopped bombing. He is optimistic, in his Jackass way, but the devil is in the details, and we’re not convinced that Moscow is serious.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said at an event in Washington:
Pindostan and Russia have an understanding to minimize the danger of aircraft interfering or colliding with each other, and that the British are covered by that, but it certainly does not extend to any cooperation over targeting, and we would not welcome that.
Many Pindo boxtops are concerned that sharing intelligence with Russia could risk revealing intelligence sources, methods and capabilities. Andrei Klimov, deputy chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, told Reuters:
Even if the plan is agreed upon, it will be until the next administration takes office, in January. I’m afraid Assad will expect tricks from the Pindosis. They have been saying constantly he’s an outcast, and now they’re about to tell Assad: “You know, please, give us a day’s advance notice before you want to trash someone with your forces.” Every time while talking to Assad we have to convince him, give arguments, additional guarantees. We can’t give him orders, he’s on his own soil.
Following a meeting with Putin last week, Jackass expressed concern about indiscriminate bombings by Syrian forces, but did not mention Russian violations of a cessation of hostilities agreement, although the CIA publicly has pointed to them. Another Pindo boxtop emphasized that Jackass had left out the “inconvenient facts” about Russian violations, saying:
What’s striking is not what Kerry has said, but what he’s failed to say.
Robert Ford, a former ambassador to Syria and now a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told Reuters:
It’s not clear to me that the Russians can deliver on their side of the deal.
The Syrian opposition said it was concerned whether Russia could succeed in getting the Assad’s government to ground its air force. Basma Kodmani, a member of opposition High Negotiations Committee, told Reuters in Faschingstein last week:
The administration has put its bet on the good faith cooperation of the Russians, with so far very disappointing results.