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    People walk near a Syrian national flag at the President bridge in Damascus, Syria March 14, 2016

    What’s Behind Washington’s Proposal to Join Forces With Russia in Syria

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    The Obama administration has offered Russia a deal to increase military cooperation against terrorist targets in Syria, in exchange for halting airstrikes against pro-Western rebel forces.

    The offer, which was sent to Moscow on Monday, proposes to share targets and coordinate an extended bombing campaign against al-Nusra Front militant group, The Washington Post newspaper reported, citing a source in the Obama administration.

    The United States is ready to take steps which Moscow has been long waiting for. However, Washington has proposed its own conditions for cooperation.

    The US has requested Russia to pressure the Syrian government to stop carrying out strikes against pro-Western rebels.

    It is also important that the deal is backed by US Secretary of State John Kerry and has been personally approved by US President Barack Obama. If the deal is reached it will be an extremely important step in restoring Russia-US cooperation in the Middle East.

    According to the newspaper, the Obama administration transmitted the text of the proposed agreement to the Russian government on Monday.

    Moscow has not yet received official proposals from Washington aimed at deepening military cooperation during anti-terrorist operations in Syria, but will carefully study them if they materialize, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

    "We have been urging the US to deepen cooperation in fight against terrorism for a long time, but haven't got an adequate response from Washington so far. Let's see what's going to happen this time," the diplomat said.

    If the agreement is reached the US military would join efforts with the Russian Aerospace Forces against al-Nusra Front.

    The US has requested that Russia puts pressure on the Syrian government to stop airstrikes against militant groups not considered terrorists by Washington. Supposedly, they are Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar ash-Sham. Moreover, the US does not plan to provide Russia with intelligence information about the location of those rebel groups. Instead, Washington wants to define geographical locations prohibiting Syrian Army airstrikes.

    Many in Washington are concerned that the US does not have a mechanism to guarantee the implementation of the deal by Russia and Assad’s government.

    At the same time, the Syrian government is interested in the fight against al-Nusra Front because it is one of the most powerful terrorist groups in Syria. The US also sees benefits for Russia from the deal. According to US analysts, cooperation between Moscow and Washington would help ease tensions between Russia and the West.

    Despite the fact that many agreements on Syria have not been very successful, Obama’s proposal could be constructive, Alexei Arbatov, head of the Center for International Security, the Institute of World Economics and International Relations, told Gazeta.ru.

    "I think Russia would accept the idea because it already proposed to coordinate airstrikes with the US against common enemies in Syria and to end combat actions against moderate rebels and Kurds," he said.

    Details should be figured out, but the conception itself is good, he added.

    The US initiative presumes not just coordination of actions to avoid collision of interests in Syria, but cooperation against the common enemy, Arbatov pointed out.

    Meanwhile, analyst Vladimir Evseyev from the Institute of CIS Countries noted that sometimes it is hard to say against whom the US is fighting in Syria.

    "They are fighting Daesh but sometimes they’re supporting radicals. This is a policy containing double standards. But if Washington is ready to fight al-Nusra Front Russia will be in the game," Evseyev said.

    Retired CIA counterterrorism officer Philip Giraldi claims that a new US proposal to step up military cooperation with Russia reflected a growing desperation by the Obama administration to deliver the appearance of success in Syria.

    "It is clear what the US government wants," Giraldi said on Thursday. "They desperately need a 'win' in Syria to help Hillary Clinton in November and only Russia can help deliver that," he told Sputnik.

    Initially, the agreement was opposed by US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Many in the Pentagon believe that airstrikes are useless in fighting al-Nusra Front because its members often join other militant groups. However, Carter finally had to agree on the proposal, according to the Washington Post.

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    Tags:
    airstrikes, terrorism, military conflict, cooperation, Daesh, Al-Nusra Front, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Syria, United States, Russia
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