Times: Kerry Isolated in Administration on Syria Agreement
Sept. 14, 2016 (EIRNS)—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has worked with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to reach a cease-fire agreement in Syria, is isolated within the Obama Administration, the New York Times reports today in an article by veteran foreign affairs staffers Helene Cooper and David Sanger.
The agreement has "widened the divide between Kerry and Ash Carter," who pushed against it, they report. Furthermore, yesterday the Pentagon would not even agree that if a ceasefire held for seven days, the Department of Defense would activate its part of the agreement on the eighth day; that is, military-to- military sharing of information on ISIS and al-Nusra targets in Syria. White House officials were also dubious that the deal would work, Cooper and Sanger report. Lt. Jeffrey Harrigan, Commander of the Air Forces Central Command, told the Times, "I’m not saying ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it.
The Times piece reports Obama White House officials as
"also dubious. ‘I think we’d have some reasons to be skeptical that the Russians are able or are willing to implement the arrangement consistent with the way its been described,’ Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Monday at a briefing. He added, darkly, ‘But well see.’ "
Kerry made the argument that the Russians could restrain Syrian President Assad from bombing, the Times says. But there are many other players besides Russia in Syria. Relief trucks were lined up at Turkey’s border with Syria yesterday, but had not yet received "safe travel" assurances. (Today they moved farther toward Aleppo, but are stuck again, as of this writing).
DoD Press Secretary Peter Cook said,
"If fully implemented, this arrangement could advance goals of relieving the suffering of the Syrian people. The Department of Defense will carry out its responsibilities, but it is really up to the Russians."
The military, says the Times, fears that sharing targeting information with Russia could reveal how the U.S. uses intelligence to conduct airstrikes, beyond Syria, including underwater and around Europe and the Baltics. Kerry’s team, says the Times, sees that as "reflexive Cold War-era thinking," and doesn’t believe the Russians want to get mired in Syria, and would make the agreement work. The U.S. and Russia worked together to get the Iran deal—though that was at the negotiating table—but have been unsuccessful in getting a deal in North Korea, Cooper and Sanger write.
The authors say the agreement is very sensitive, as can be seen by the fact that the State Department has not released the text of the agreement with the Russians, or even a fact sheet summarizing it.