Rift Appears Between US DoS and Pentagon Over Syrian Deal With Russia

© AFP 2023 / ANDY RAIN / POOLUS Secretary of State John Kerry addresses delegates during during a donor conference entitled 'Supporting Syria & The Region' at the QEII centre in central London on February 4, 2016
US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses delegates during during a donor conference entitled 'Supporting Syria & The Region' at the QEII centre in central London on February 4, 2016 - Sputnik International
Tensions are simmering in Washington regarding the deal struck by US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov over Syria. There appears to be a rift within the Obama administration with the "party of war" opposing the idea of US-Russian cooperation.

The Russo-American deal on Syria has triggered controversy in the US with Pentagon officials signaling skepticism regarding the agreement.

"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 terrorist groups," The New York Times reported on September 13.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with US President Barack Obama (L) before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit plenary session at the International Convention Center in Beijing on November 11, 2014 - Sputnik International
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The media outlet narrated that the Pentagon officials were reluctant about putting in place its part of the US-Russian agreement.

In accordance with the deal the US Department of Defense would have to share information with Moscow on Daesh targets in Syria if the ceasefire holds for seven days.

"I'm not saying yes or no. It would be premature to say that we're going to jump right into it," Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of the United States Air Forces Central Command, said as cited by the media outlet.

For its part, on Monday Foreign Policy magazine drew attention to the fact that senior officials at the Pentagon were expressing serious doubts regarding the efficiency of the agreement struck by Washington and Moscow.

There appears to be a rift between Kerry and Carter over Syria, reflecting the ongoing conflict within the Obama administration. Previously, Carter has repeatedly opposed the Secretary of State's initiatives to establish a working relationship with Moscow.

However, in an apparent response to the New York Times' publication, Carter voiced support for the State Department's agreement with Russia on Syria.

"Well, the ceasefire as of today looks like it is largely being held. This is very important, I commend Secretary of State Kerry for getting us an agreement, which if it's implemented, will ease the suffering of the Syrian people, which is very important to all of us, very important to the president," the Secretary of Defense told a press briefing in Texas on September 14.

Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry shake hands - Sputnik International
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"We've got a ways to go to see whether it will be implemented or not, but if it is, and it will mean that the suffering of the Syrian people is eased. It will mean that Russia gets on the right side of things in Syria and not on the wrong side, and that's good. And, so we in the Defense Department will play whatever role we have with our accustomed excellence," he emphasized.

Although the Pentagon Chief has confirmed his commitment to implement the agreement, tensions continue to simmer over the Syrian ceasefire regime.

On Thursday, commenting on the process of ceasefire regime implementation in the Syrian Arab Republic, Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation expressed its concerns about the US-led "moderate opposition's" unwillingness to abide by the US-Russia brokered agreement.

"Only the Syrian army has been observing the ceasefire regime within these three days of implementation of the agreements while the US-led 'moderate opposition' has been increasing the number of shellings of residential quarters," Russian Defense Ministry's statement published on its Facebook page reads.

"Moreover, it appears that 'verbal curtain' of Washington is aimed at hiding the nonfulfillment of the US obligations. First of all it refers to separation of formations of 'moderate opposition' from terrorists," the statement says.

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In his interview on the John Batchelor Show Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University, highlighted that that a covert struggle is going on between the "party of war," represented by Ashton Carter and the Hillary Clinton camp, and the "party of peace" led by John Kerry and his followers.

Commenting on the July attempts by Kerry to strike a deal with Moscow on Syria, Cohen suggested that "the party of war" and most notably Carter, could have thrown a wrench in the US-Russian negotiations.

Indeed, in mid-July the US and Russia announced an initial agreement to coordinate airstrikes against Daesh and al-Nusra Front in Syria. However, the negotiations soon stalled.

The question remains open whether or not "the party of war" in Washington will upset the US-Russian applecart in Syria again.

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