"A friend who works in the Obama Administration recently lamented that the Russians are always a step ahead of us when it comes to Syria and the Middle East. If we are wondering why this is the case, the answer is simple: Moscow knows exactly what it wants in Syria and we do not," he wrote for the American Interest.
True, Russia has been consistent in pursuing its main aim – to assist the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in its fight against radical groups, who are trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Moscow's operation was launched following a formal request from Damascus at a time when it was struggling to tackle the foreign-sponsored insurgency.
In addition, Russia has been determined to launch a viable peace process in the war-torn country, which has lost more 250,000 lives to the bloody conflict. These efforts were instrumental in passing UN Security Council resolution 2254. The document offers a roadmap and a framework aimed at resolving the five-year-long war through multilateral and inclusive talks, a nationwide ceasefire and elections.
"By contrast, the US position is all over the place," Barkey observed. Washington's approach was long centered on the premise that Assad had to resign before any meaningful peace process could take place. In recent months, the White House seems to have (temporarily?) abandoned this policy.
US officials say that fighting Daesh is the key priority at the moment. Washington launched its anti-Daesh campaign in Iraq and Syria in September 2014, but has largely failed to deliver on its promise to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the brutal group.
In general, the Obama administration "has been more of a spectator than an activist," the expert noted.