Kerry: We Swear We Know What We’re Doing in Syria

The Kremlin has been crowing that the United States is prepared to strike a deal on Syria that would leave Russian ally Bashar al-Assad in place. But that’s not true, the State Department insists. Reuters reports:

“There is no change to our position or our concerns about what Russia is doing in Syria,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

“Secretary Kerry has been clear, and he has been consistent. We would welcome a constructive role by Russia in countering ISIL, but if they are there to shore up Assad, it runs counter to any meaningful effort to bring an end to the conflict,” Kirby added, using an acronym to refer to the militant group Islamic State.

On the one hand, we certainly do not trust Putin’s government to give a straight account of things. It has a strong interest in trying to put the U.S. in a corner through the media. On the other hand, this strategy is only open to Moscow because the Obama Administration is in a state of extreme disarray in terms of its Syria strategy—which, for this White House, is really saying something.

Yesterday, the President’s czar for the international fight against ISIS quit; he did so largely, it’s thought, because of interference from the NSC and a lack of support from the West Wing. In the wake of the Iran Deal, Washington has been unable to either muster a stand against Iran in the region or reach an accommodation that delivers U.S. aims. And as other powers, including Russia and Iran, move to influence the endgame overtly, it’s becoming increasingly clear that simply running out the clock until the next Administration—that is, sitting on the sidelines for 15 months—will not do. The U.S. needs a new strategy in Syria, now.

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