WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States cannot hope to defeat ISIL and roll back its advances in Syria without abandoning its current policy and starting instead to cooperate with the government of President Bashir al-Assad, US foreign policy experts told Sputnik.
“A serious situation has reached a major crisis point,” Executive Intelligence Review Senior Editor Jeff Steinberg said on Tuesday. “The Assad government now covers 20 percent of [Syria’s] territory and that’s with extensive Hezbollah and Iranian support.”
Coalition forces opposed to both ISIL and to the Syrian government are now gathered around the al-Nusra Front.
Steinberg, however, described these forces as quasi-jihadists themselves.
“It [the al-Nusra Front] is an Islamic State lite,” he said.
Steinberg noted some leaders in the United States and Russia recognize the dangers of a potential collapse of the Syrian government, and the creation of a political vacuum into which ISIL could expand.
“The whole situation is a political disaster,” Steinberg said. “There has been a discussion between Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russians [about what to do] before the situation degenerates until there’s nothing left.”
Saudi Arabia was also exploring the possibility of cooperating with Russia to end the Syrian civil war, he said.
“The United States is not trusted by anybody,” Steinberg explained. “[Therefore] the Saudis are exploring a close arrangement with the Russians.”
However, Moscow had one sticking point in their negotiations over Syria with both the United States and the Saudis. “The Russians are not about to abandon Assad and they made that clear,” he added.
Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute agreed that continued US refusal to work with the Syrian government contradicted its expressed goal of combating ISIL.
“Yes, a contradiction exists because the United States is desperate to find any local ground forces to combat ISIS, but it ignores that Assad's forces would fight if they thought the United States would give up trying to overthrow Assad,” he said.
Similarly in Iraq, Elan stated, the United States is under the table on same side as Iran and the Shia Iraqi government and militias fighting ISIL.
However, Eland pointed out, the United States “eschews doing the same with the Syrian government in Syria.”
Steinberg stated that the Russian assessment of the importance of preserving Assad was shared by many senior US Army officers.
“There is a consensus between the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and CENTCOM (Central Command, which covers the Middle East) that Assad is the only factor of quasi-stability,” he said.
If the civil war was not settled soon, Steinberg warned, the West is looking at a continuing military engagement in which the Syrian Army is being steadily ground down.
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