Monday, September 28, 2015


"U.S. considers Russian intentions, involvement in Syria" PBS NewsHour 9/21/2015


SUMMARY:  The conflict in Syria has become ever more complicated as factions have splintered.  As Russia steps up its military support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow is calling for greater coordination with the U.S. against the common threat of the Islamic State.  Gwen Ifill speaks to chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Now we return to the root of what’s forced millions from their homes: the conflict in Syria.

With multiple factions and common enemies in play, the war has become even more complicated, as Russia now steps up its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by moving additional military men and weaponry into Syria and expanding its base there.

Meanwhile, Moscow is calling for greater coordination with the U.S. to fight a common enemy: the Islamic State group.

Joining me now to help us sort through some of this latest tangle is chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner.

So, Margaret, where does this proposal or this talk about having joint U.S.-Russia talks stand tonight?

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  Well, Gwen, even though there’s been no official announcement, in fact, you could say the military-to-military talks have already begun.

Last Friday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had a conversation 50 minutes with his counterpart, and this had been 18 months in which the Obama administration had cut off all contacts after Russia seized Ukraine or certainly seized Crimea.

So the question they’re trying to figure out, OK, publicly, they’re saying, the U.S. is saying, well, these are deconfliction talks.  Make sure that our planes don’t interfere with each other and we don’t have an accident.

That is part of it.  But really what they want to know is, what is Assad’s intention here?  And is it to prop up the Assad government?  I’m sorry — Russian’s intentions are to prop up the Assad government, or in fact is it just to fight ISIS, which is what Kerry had been told by Lavrov?

GWEN IFILL:  Now, is this just old Cold War suspension, or do we have reason to be worried that this is more than what Russia says it is?

MARGARET WARNER:  Oh, well, that’s exactly — and the administration will admit this — they do not want to be gamed, as several said to me, the way they were in Ukraine, where President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov, Sergei Lavrov, consistently, in the U.S. view, lied, not only to them on the phone, face to face, but lied to the world about whether they were in Ukraine and what they were doing in Ukraine.

And so this time, they didn’t want to be sucked into that.  They also want to make sure, you know, if his intention is to help Assad fight ISIS and they adopt Assad’s view, which is everybody opposed to me is a terrorist, well, the U.S. doesn’t want to get sucked into that kind of endeavor or that kind of partnership.

GWEN IFILL:  I can understand that, but I just don’t see — how do face-to-face talks mean that they will tell the truth or that they will get the truth?

MARGARET WARNER:  Excellent point, Gwen, because Kerry has already had three conversations with Lavrov.

Based on what happened in Ukraine, there is no guarantee they will be told the truth.  And the interventions with Lavrov on the phone have, so far, not slowed the Russian advance of weapons and materiel and men into Syria at all.

Hint.... Putin lies, period.

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