MESOP BACKGROUNDER TODAY : Kerry Visits Russia With Obama’s Plan for Cooperation

14 July 2016 – By Scott Lcas – eaworldview – US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Russia on Thursday, bringing President Obama’s proposal for deepened cooperation with Moscow inside Syria. The proposal, adopted after a sharp debate within the Administration, sets out coordinated air attacks and extensive cooperation between US and Russian military and intelligence agencies. This will be overseen by a command-and-control headquarters with US and Russian military officers and intelligence operatives.

The “Joint Implementation Group” would be housed near Amman, Jordan, where there is already a US-led international Military Operations Center. Its mission will be to “enable expanded coordination between the United States and the Russian Federation beyond the established safety of flight procedures”.

The immediate objective of the plan is to work on operations against the Islamic State — the nominal, if not actual, focus of Russian aerial intervention since late September — and the jihadists of Jabhat al-Nusra.

At the same time, the proposal sets aside action to press the Assad regime for a political resolution of the 5 1/2-year conflict. An alternative initiative for targeted airstrikes on the Syrian military and support of some rebel factions was rejected by the White House.

Supporters of Obama’s proposal say the Russians will be asked to obtain a halt to regime bombing and to encourage President Assad to negotiate.

However, critics argue that Russia — despite nominally working for a now-dormant February 27 “cessation of hostilities” and the Geneva talks between January and April — has shown no willingness to limit the military operations or to press Assad into the lifting of sieges and release of political detainees, let alone acceptance of a transitional government.

Russia, which has carried out thousands of airstrikes on opposition areas since September, and the regime have stepped up air and grounds since mid-April.

Coordination and “Integrated Operations”

The US proposal sets out the initial sharing of intelligence through separate headquarters. Then, through the shared command-and-control center, “the participants should coordinate procedures to permit integrated operations” against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. Those operations could include assistance of each other’s aerial forces.

In return, Russia would limit airstrikes to agreed targets and to ensure that the Assad regime will not bomb targets in “designated areas”.

However, Russia could still strike Jabhat al-Nusra unilaterally if it finds there is an “imminent threat” to its personnel, if Nusra advances beyond “designated areas”, or if Jabhat al-Nusra attacks pro-Assad forces from the “designated areas”.

No detail is given of the “designated areas”.