In less than a week, Washington did a U-turn and joined Moscow in discussions over its new military initiative to fight the Islamic State (ISIL) terrorist group in Syria, publicist Patrick Smith wrote in his article for The Fiscal Times. "You have to go back to Kerry’s surprise visit to Sochi last May, when he spent seven hours talking to President Putin and his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to get this right. The encounter left no doubt that Kerry stands among those in the administration favoring negotiation over confrontation in foreign policy," he wrote.
The meeting in Sochi was 80 percent Middle East issues, and only 10 percent Ukraine and 10 percent Iran, Smith wrote citing a high-profile Russian official.
According to the journalist, the recent talks between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his US counterpart Ashton Carter were also focused on the same issue. That proves that the US is now revising its Middle East strategy to turn to cooperation with Russia. "Only a couple of months ago Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was on Eastern European borders with Russia promising to escalate the NATO presence. Last week — and on Obama’s orders — it was Carter who made the ice-breaking telephone call to Sergei Shoigu, his counterpart in Moscow. Altogether a revelatory moment," the analyst assumed.
US rhetoric toward Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has changed. Previously, Washington insisted that Assad must quit. However, recently US State Secretary John Kerry allowed for the possibility that Assad might remain in power in the short term and the crisis could be settled without another regime change, Smith pointed out. The White House has realized that ISIL is the most dangerous threat in the Middle East and it cannot be defeated without Russia, he added. In simple terms, the diplomats inside Obama’s administration achieved a victory over the militarists who only escalated the crisis in Syria and strengthened ISIL, the author explained. Smith also listed the implications of this drastic turn toward cooperation with Russia. First, it may open the way to a good political settlement in Syria, and there is no more denying this can be done without Russia.
According to an article by columnist Ishaan Tharoor in the Washington Post, Obama and Kerry considered that option before. Three years ago Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin told Martii Ahtisaari, a Finnish diplomat and a Nobel laureate, that Assad was willing to enter talks with the opposition and "finding an elegant way for Assad to step down" was highly possible. That was one year after war broke out, and the casualty count was less than 10,000, Smith underscored.
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