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Obama Administration Brawl over Russia/Syria Policy at Break Point

July 26, 2016 (EIRNS)—Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met today on the sidelines of the East Asian summit in Laos, to continue working out the details of the plan for greater U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria agreed on during Kerry’s July 14 meetings with Lavrov and Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Both spoke of progress being made after their meeting.

Lavrov told reporters that

"agreements were made on practical steps that should be made to effectively fight against terrorists, to prevent the situation when the so-called moderate opposition remains on terrorist-controlled territories and wants to participate in the ceasefire regime, and at the same time wants to ensure that this regime does not inflict any damage on Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra.... We discussed what needs to be done in order for this agreement to start working in practice, in the form of activities of Russian Aerospace Defense Forces and U.S. forces, as well as the US-led coalition."

For his part, Kerry reported that he is hopeful that if the U.S. and Russia continue

"doing our homework ... as effectively as it’s been done over the last days since I was in Moscow.... somewhere in early August—the first week or so, somewhere in there,"

a joint plan for Syria could be announced. We discussed today "the next piece of homework that needs to be completed before we are prepared to make a public announcement," he added. He specified that this "homework" involves quiet meetings between technical teams who are to address differences, beforehand.

Kerry’s remarks were made in answer to a reporter’s question about statements from Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Gen. Joseph Dunford the day before, throwing cold water on Kerry’s negotiations with the Russians.

Both Dunford and Carter reflected the anti-Russia, pro-jihadi policy which has been Obama’s policy. Carter was the more bellicose. He twice insisted that U.S. policy will remain one of regime change before fighting terrorism, saying:

"We’ll see whether it’s possible ... for the Russians to begin to do the right thing in Syria. They obviously have been backing the regime, which has had the effect of prolonging the civil war. Whereas we had hoped that they would promote a political solution and transition to put an end to the civil war which is the beginning of all this violence in Syria. And then combat extremists, rather than moderate opposition which has to be part of that transition. So, they’re a long way from doing that."

Lest it were not clear the first time, Carter reiterated:

"Our interests are to see a political transition promoted, number one, that puts an end to the violence in Syria and gives the Syrian people back a government and a life that they deserve. And second, the defeat of extremism there and in Iraq."

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