As Russia makes gains on the ground in Syria, the U.S. gave ground at the U.N. Security Council. On Friday, the U.N. passed for the first time a resolution on peace negotiations in Syria. But there was a big omission, via the NYT:
The resolution makes no mention of whether Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, would be able to run in new elections, which it says must be held within 18 months of the beginning of political talks. That process will begin sometime in January at the earliest, Mr. Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, conceded. Privately, officials believe it may take significantly longer.
The remaining gap between the Russian and American sides became obvious at the very end of a news conference Friday evening that involved Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov. Mr. Kerry noted that 80 percent of Russian airstrikes were hitting opposition groups fighting Mr. Assad, not the forces of the Islamic State extremist group. Mr. Lavrov shot back that for two and half months, Russia had asked the United States to coordinate military operations.
Meanwhile, Russian- and Iranian-aided Syrian government forces seem to have made significant gains in the country’s west. There are reports that the rebels have retaken an important mountain in Latakia, but, on balance, the government seems to have indeed made progress on the ground. In the absence of a coherent U.S. policy, Russia continues to lead in Syria.