Kerry:  Russian involvement in Syria risks conflict with coalition

Interviewed by the Italian daily, La Stampa, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern Wednesday about Russian military activity in Syria and added he has stated as much in conversations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

When addressing the military and political situation in Syria specifically, Kerry raised the prospect Russian military activity in Syria in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad could lead to a showdown between Russian and anti-Assad forces conducting operations in Syria.

These actions could provoke a further escalation of the conflict and lead to the loss of more innocent lives, increasing the flow of refugees and risking a confrontation with the anti-ISIS (Islamic State) coalition operating in Syria,” Kerry said.

Over the last month, Russia, a long-time ally of the Assad regime, has delivered military hardware to Syria; armor, helicopters and a small detachment of military engineers have arrived to manage the arrangement of weapon systems.

As recently as this week, intelligence reports determined Russia had commenced drone operations in Syrian airspace.

Russia has beckoned for American co-operation against ISIS.  Why are we issuing warnings to the Kremlin?

Assad, desperate to cling to power, has welcomed Russian support to defeat both ISIS and anti-Assad rebels.

While it is a legitimate concern for the United States to both witness Russian military activity in the region and support the Assad regime, a known sponsor of terrorism, White House inertia paved the way for Russia to fill a much-needed void to combat ISIS terror.

A quite worrisome and potentially explosive development is the possibility the intelligence gathered by Russian drones may be shared with Assad and, by extension, Assad’s terror networks.

Both a voice for and a critic of Assad, the Kremlin has not demanded Assad remain in power in perpetuity; however, they have maintained supporting the Assad regime is the best option while the struggle against ISIS persists.

ISIS is making life intolerable for numerous people in the region and has spurred millions of displaced persons and hundreds of thousands more refugees seeking asylum in Europe.  If the United States continues to readily dispose the concerns of the Kremlin which is appealing for some measure of cooperation without unreasonable conditions, we will foreclose the possibility of crushing a malevolent force threatening the entire region.

The White House and State Department should take cue from the Israeli Defense Ministry, which has begun coordinating with the Kremlin to avoid conflicts in Syria.

This would make some sense.


[Reuters] [ABC News] [Photo courtesy CNN]