Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham said Friday that Secretary of State John Kerry’s plan to cooperate with the Russians in Syria is little more than “groveling,” and also called the plan “delusional.”
In a joint press statement, McCain and Graham pressed for President Barack Obama to “terminate Secretary Kerry’s dangerous scheme to help Russia prop up the murderous Assad regime in Syria.”
“Secretary Kerry’s groveling to Vladimir Putin in Moscow yesterday was the embarrassing culmination of this Administration’s failed policy in Syria that suffers under the persistent delusion of Russia as a partner,” the two senators added.
McCain and Graham noted that the newly proposed agreement with Russia to share targeting information on Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, follows the same sort of feckless policy that has kept Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power, even after Assad apparently “turned peaceful protests into a bloody civil war.”
Josh Rogin at The Washington Post recently obtained a draft proposal of the agreement. The agreement turns out to be much more extensive than previously thought, entailing detailed cooperation between U.S. and Russian intelligence agencies. The U.S. and Russia would create a separate headquarters and a specific office for cooperation. If Russia signs on, its air force will only be able to strike locations in Syria mutually agreed upon with the U.S., which is likely to severely hamper the air force’s modus operandi. The agreement also mandates the Russians pressure the Syrian air force to avoid targeting “designated areas.”
Targeting al-Nusra would inevitably benefit the Assad regime because, unlike the Islamic State, al-Nusra is more directly focused on bringing Assad to his knees, which is why Russia seems somewhat more enthusiastic than others in the U.S. government.
Although the State Department seems interested in such an agreement, it appears McCain and Graham are siding with the Pentagon on this matter, as many top-level officials in the Department of Defense think the Obama administration is being duped by Putin. If the Pentagon is forced into cooperation, officials have said they’ll try and push for as little information sharing with the Russians as possible, so as to avoid giving them a decisive advantage against other rebel groups that want to eliminate the Assad regime.
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