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U.S.-Russian Military Coordination In Syria?

Jan. 24, 2017 (EIRNS)—The Trump Administration, yesterday, indicated openness to cooperating with Russia "or anyone else" to fight ISIS in Syria, reports Associated Press. "I think if there’s a way that we can combat ISIS with any country, whether it’s Russia or anyone else, and we have a shared national interest in that, sure, we’ll take it," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. He was not ready to go so far as to suggest such cooperation with Assad, however.

Spicer also suggested that Trump already has told Defense Secretary James Mattis to change the U.S. approach to fighting the Islamic State. "I think he has ordered it," Spicer said, adding that Trump would discuss the matter with Mattis during a visit to the Pentagon on Friday. "At that time, he will continue to have conversations about what he wants from them and the joint chiefs."

In an air strike announcement, yesterday, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that such cooperation is already underway. Tass reports that according to the statement, on Jan. 22, 2017, the command of the Russian Hmeymim, Syria-based aerospace group received from the U.S.-led military command information on the location of ISIS targets in Al Bab.

"Following a reconnaissance check with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and space reconnaissance tools, two Russian warplanes and two planes of the international coalition delivered strikes against terrorist targets,"

the ministry said.

"As a result of the joint operation, several munitions and fuels depots and concentrations of militants with heavy weapons were destroyed."

This supposed operation followed by a day another joint operation between the Russian and Turkish air forces against ISIS in Al Bab.

The Pentagon wasted no time denying the Russian assertion. "The Department of Defense is not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria," Eric Pahon, a spokesman at the Pentagon, told Defense News.

"DoD maintains a channel of communication with the Russian military focused solely on ensuring the safety of aircrews and de-confliction of coalition and Russian operations in Syria."

Other officials reportedly called the Russian claim propaganda and even "rubbish."

Igor Korotchenko, a prominent defense analyst in Moscow, said there are probably a couple of reasons behind the Pentagon denials. "We consider information released by the Russian Defense Ministry to be highly accurate," he told told RIA Novosti.

"This means that the cooperation has begun, which is a good thing since terrorism is a common enemy. There is a real chance to alter previous approaches to cooperation under President Trump. The Obama administration has not been particularly helpful"

in this respect, Korotchenko noted.

"Perhaps, the Pentagon did not want to make this information public because [many positions in] the new U.S. administration have not been finalized. Once the Trump team is put together, those who have an adverse informational effect on the cooperation [between the U.S. and Russia in Syria] will be let go,"

Korotchenko asserted.