17:46 GMT +321 January 2018
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    Members of Syrian pro-government forces drive their pick-up in the village of Minyan, west of Aleppo, after they retook the area from rebel fighters on November 12, 2016

    Single US-Russian Coalition in Syria Possible If Washington Meets Two Conditions

    © AFP 2018/ GEORGE OURFALIAN
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    Donald Trump's victory appears to have spoiled plans of those in the United States intent on deepening a standoff with Russia over Syria, with some, including former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, suggesting that Moscow and Washington could now join forces to tackle terrorist groups in the war-torn country.

    Last week, the French politician urged to create a single joint coalition to resolve the Syrian crisis. "The good news is that we will be able to do away with an utterly counterproductive atmosphere of the Cold War between the United States and Russia after Donald Trump's victory," he said.

    This is something that Russian officials have long advocated, even after the latest effort to resolve the nearly six-year-long Syrian war was shattered after radical groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad ruined a fragile ceasefire, brokered by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

    Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Russia's upper house of the parliament Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestiya that Russia and the United States could be part of a single counterterrorism coalition. He mentioned two conditions that Washington has to meet to make this possible.

    "There are no insurmountable obstacles on this path," he said. If Washington "primarily aims at tackling terrorism in Syria, then I see nothing that could prevent us from being in a coalition with the United States."

    The Russian senator pointed out that under the Obama administration the United States was focused on a regime change, but Washington could alter its "strategic goals" when Trump's team comes to power. "This largely corresponds with Trump's pre-election rhetoric," Kosachev noted. The US president-elect said "that the United States will no longer meddle in the internal affairs of other countries."

    Kosachev mentioned another necessary prerequisite for Russia joining forces with the United States in a bid to rid Syria of radical groups, including Daesh and al-Nusra Front. This coalition, if it is established, "will fully adhere to international law," he said.

    This has been one of the key differences when it comes to Russia's military engagement in Syria and the US-led coalition's anti-Daesh efforts. Moscow launched its operation following a formal request from Damascus, which was struggling to contain a foreign-sponsored insurgency in mid-2015. Neither the UN Security Council, not the Syrian government has authorized the US-led operation in Syria, meaning it is at odds with international law.

    Senior Fellow at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies Boris Dolgov told the newspaper that Washington will not change its strategy towards Syria in an instant even if Donald Trump and his team are willing to focus on Daesh instead of Assad.

    "There will be no progress" until Trump moves into the White House, the political analyst said. "Trump will also have to overcome the resistance from national security, defense and law enforcement agencies, particularly the Pentagon and the CIA."

    Trump's foreign policy shift towards greater counterterrorism cooperation with Russia will encounter a pushback from hardliners in Washington, but US military officials and diplomats are rumored to be ready to go through with the plan if the new US president says so.

    "We were ready to go, and we can be ready to go again," an unnamed US defense official told the Washington Times last week. "It's all speculation at this point," a State Department official noted, saying that it was unclear "whether they're going to keep the strategy as it is, tweak it, revise it or do away with it completely."

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    Tags:
    US foreign policy, anti-Daesh coalition, anti-terrorist coalition, counterterrorism, US-led coalition, Russian aerial campaign, Syrian conflict, Syrian crisis, Nicolas Sarkozy, Konstantin Kosachev, Syria, United States, Russia
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