Ashton Carter, Obama’s Secretary of Defense, said during a Pentagon briefing on Thursday the Russian effort to target the Islamic State in Syria will “pour gasoline on the (ISIS) phenomenon.”
Assisting Syria in its war against ISIS and other jihadi groups attempting to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad will empower the Islamic State, Carter insisted.
Carter’s remarks underscore the primary objective of the United States in Syria — removing al-Assad.
“To pursue the defeat of ISIL without at the same time pursuing a political transition is to fuel the very kind of extremism that underlies ISIL, and if that’s the Russian view that’s a logical contradiction,” Carter said. “And the way out of that contradiction is to pursue both of those in parallel. And on that basis I think we’re prepared to discuss a way ahead with Russia where the political and the military move in parallel.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Friday the Russian attempt to defeat ISIS and prevent the creation of a Wahhabist principality in Syria — as suggested by Defense Department documents — increases Russia’s “moral responsibility in the crimes committed by the regime.”
“Assad must go, he can’t be part of Syria’s future,” Hammond said, Le Monde reported. “If we reach a deal on a transition authority and Assad is part of it, then it will be necessary to talk with him in his capacity as an actor in this process.”
Speaking with Charlie Rose this week about Russian involvement in Syria, Vladimir Putin said it is his “deep belief that any actions to the contrary in order to destroy the legitimate government will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region.”
Putin also said the al-Assad government must engage in dialogue with the US supported, trained and armed opposition. “At the same time we must encourage them to engage in dialogue with the rational opposition and conduct reform.”
“It is only the Syrian people who should decide who should govern their country, and how.”
Putin did not define what he meant by “rational opposition.”
The proxy forces supported by the United States and its partners, including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates and Turkey, are comprised almost entirely of radical jihadists.