Aligned with Russia in Syria, Pentagon having trouble supporting the deal made by John Kerry and President Obama (And it isn’t the first time)

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Details of Syria Pact Widen Rift Between John Kerry and Pentagon

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By HELENE COOPER and DAVID E. SANGER
The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — The agreement that Secretary of State John Kerry announced with Russia to reduce the killing in Syria has widened an increasingly public divide between Mr. Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, who has deep reservations about the plan for American and Russian forces to jointly target terror groups.Mr. Carter was among the administration officials who pushed against the agreement on a conference call with the White House last week as Mr. Kerry, joining the argument from a secure facility in Geneva, grew increasingly frustrated. Although President Obama ultimately approved the effort after hours of debate, Pentagon officials remain unconvinced.On Tuesday at the Pentagon, officials would not even agree that if a cessation of violence in Syria held for seven days — the initial part of the deal — the Defense Department would put in place its part of the agreement on the eighth day: an extraordinary collaboration between the United States and Russia that calls for the American military to share information with Moscow on Islamic State targets in Syria.

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“I’m not saying yes or no,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told reporters on a video conference call. “It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it.”

White House officials were also dubious. “I think we’d have some reasons to be skeptical that the Russians are able or are willing to implement the arrangement consistent with the way it’s been described,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Monday at a briefing. He added, darkly, “But we’ll see.”

In Mr. Kerry’s view, the administration has needed to do everything it can to restrain the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria from continuing to bomb civilians. Once the Russians entered the war, that meant making the deal with President Vladimir V. Putin — one in which the Russians would pressure Mr. Assad to stay out of the skies.

For Mr. Kerry, the search for a reduction in violence in Syria, and ultimately a political agreement that will ease Mr. Assad out of office, is a matter of legacy and reputation. His first major project as secretary of state, reviving Mideast peace talks, collapsed before his first year in office was complete. His next major effort, the Iran nuclear deal, was far more successful, and he ultimately found a way to convince the Iranians to ship most of their nuclear material out of the country and dismantle key facilities.

But the Syria deal, as Mr. Kerry himself conceded at the State Department on Monday, is far more complex — in part because there are so many other players, beyond Washington and Moscow, with stakes in the outcome. In private, he has conceded to aides and friends that he believes it will not work. But he has said he is determined to try, so that he, and Mr. Obama, do not leave office having failed to alleviate a civil war that has taken roughly half a million lives.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/14/world/middleeast/syria-john-kerry.html?_r=0

 

 

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