US, Russia Hold Military Talks Over Syria; What Changed Obama's Tune?
Russian intervention in Syria has forced president Obama to rethink US policy.
The Financial Times reports US and Russia Hold Syria Talks as Moscow Hints at Combat Role.
US secretary of defense Ashton Carter held direct talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday to discuss the war in Syria, amid mounting concern in the west over Russia's growing military support for the Assad regime.
The talks started as Moscow indicated it could send combat troops to Syria to support the Syrian military and US secretary of state John Kerry appeared to adopt a softer position towards Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The Friday phone call with Mr Shoigu was the first time Mr Carter had spoken to the Russian defence minister since he assumed office in March and ended a long period of almost no communication between the two militaries as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.
The Pentagon said that the two ministers talked about ways to "deconflict" their respective operations in Syria, including the risk that planes from both countries could be flying in close proximity, and that both countries were focused on defeating Isis.
Speaking in London, Mr Kerry said that the purpose of the military talks would be to "define some of the different options that are available to us as we consider next steps in Syria."
The Obama administration has long insisted that Mr Assad could not be part of any political agreement that might end the war. However, on Friday Mr Kerry appeared to suggest it could accept the Syrian president remaining in power in the short-term, saying that no political settlement in Syria could be achieved "with the long-term presence of Assad".
The Kremlin said on Friday that Russia is prepared to consider supporting the Assad regime with troops in combat if the Syrian government asks for that, in the clearest indication so far that it is prepared to further step up its military involvement in the Syrian conflict.
What the Hell is the US Mission in Syria?
On September 11, Russia called on US to cooperate militarily in Syria to avert "unintended incidents.".
State department spokesman John Kirby said he did not know what Russia meant. Kirby also stated "The most productive thing that they [Russia] can do is to stop aiding the Assad regime."
I responded to Kirby in What the Hell is the US Mission in Syria?
What Russia meant: "Duh! How about US-backed rebels fighting Assad, accidentally shooting at Russian or Iranian backed forces attacking Isis? Was that really so hard to figure out John?"
In regards to Kirby's statement on Assad, I commented "Kirby, just emphatically explained the US number one priority: Getting rid of Assad is far more important than stopping Isis. The US even backs Al Qaeda in that mission under the perverse description 'moderate rebels'."
- The perverse wisdom is there is such a thing as "moderate Al Qaeda rebels".
- The perverse wisdom is that Iraq can stay in one piece.
- The perverse wisdom is that Assad gets all the blame for the mess in Syria.
- The perverse wisdom is that the Kurds should not have their own country.
- The perverse wisdom is the US should refuse help from Iran and Russia to contain Isis.
- The perverse wisdom is the "House of Saud" is our friend.
- The perverse wisdom is Iran must remain an enemy.
- The perverse wisdom is the US should be nation building at all in this region.
Abrupt, But Welcome Change
Talking with Russia is an abrupt but welcome change. So is change in the priority. We should also engage Iran on the same issue.
What Changed Obama's Tune?
People may be wondering what changed Obama's tune so abruptly.
Stubborn, arrogant politicians (is there any other kind?) don't suddenly reverse course for no reason. So, what's the reason?
A German article on Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten provides a likely answer.
Please consider Syria: Germany Erupts US Alliance Against Russia.
Germany surprisingly erupted from the anti-Putin alliance of USA: Germany now officially welcomes the willingness of Moscow to get involved in Syria and will start together with the Russians and the French initiative to end the war. The flow of refugees is to be stopped. Germany has put thousands of soldiers on call.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Germany welcomes the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to participate "in the struggle against extremist organization". It is in the common interest to combat ISIS she said.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even announced that it would start with Lavrov and his French colleague Laurent Fabius an attempt to end the civil war in Syria. Lavrov and Fabius are expected on Saturday in Berlin.
Leading CSU politicians spoke out in finding a peaceful solution for Syria for closer cooperation with the Russian leadership made. Without the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the situation in Syria is not to get a handle on, says CSU chief Horst Seehofer.
The Syrian refugee crisis, with millions of migrants flowing into Germany is what changed Merkel's mind. In turn, the possibility of Germany and France supporting Putin in Syria changed Obama's mind.
We should have had talks on Syria long ago, but arrogant politicians do not change policies without a huge amount of pressure.
The refugee crisis created that pressure, not a sudden dose of common sense from Obama.
US neocons and Republican presidential candidates will be all over Obama for this, but talking with Russia is a smart action, even if Obama was forced into doing the smart thing by Merkel. Of course Merkel would not have done the smart thing were it not for the escalating refugee crisis.
By the way, there is a good chance this will spill over into sensible sanction discussions with Russia as well.
This is the story behind the story, and one you are unlikely to see in US mainstream media.