What others say: Feds blindsided by Russia again

  • Saturday, August 6, 2016 1:00pm
  • Opinion

For more than a month, Secretary of State John F. Kerry has been pressing the regime of Vladimir Putin to accept what, for Moscow, would be a sweetheart deal on Syria. The United States would grant Russia’s long-standing request to carry out joint operations against Syrian rebels deemed to be terrorists, in exchange for another Kremlin promise to restrain bombing by the regime of Bashar al-Assad in some parts of the country. This cave-in to Mr. Putin would be so sweeping that some senior Obama administration officials have not concealed their doubts: In an interview with The Post’s David Ignatius, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. questioned whether Russia could be expected to deliver on any promise it made in Syria.

Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Putin had other ambitions. Rather than settle for the partial victory offered by Mr. Kerry, Russia has joined with the Assad regime in a new campaign to drive all anti-regime forces out of Aleppo, the country’s largest city — a feat that would essentially win the war. Last week, Moscow unilaterally declared that it was creating four evacuation corridors out of rebel-held districts and invited the 300,000 civilians and armed combatants in them to evacuate. Anyone who remained, the Russians suggested, would be mercilessly targeted. That assault is already underway: Having cut off the last road into the rebel-held area nearly three weeks ago, regime forces have been systematically bombing its remaining hospitals and other medical facilities.

As even State Department spokesmen were obliged to acknowledge, the Russian operation, which the Kremlin cynically described as a humanitarian mission, was little more than a preemptory demand for the opposition’s unconditional surrender that ignored the ongoing U.N.-sponsored political process and violated a Security Council resolution. For their part, the rebels responded with a major offensive to break the Aleppo siege. On Monday, the deadline set by U.N. Resolution 2254 for an agreement on a political transition in Syria, some of the heaviest fighting of the year was underway.

Once again, the Obama administration appears to have been blindsided by Mr. Putin, just as it was when Russia dispatched its forces to Syria in September. On Friday, Mr. Kerry said he had been on the phone to Moscow seeking clarification about the Aleppo move, which he said posed the “risk, if it is a ruse, of completely breaking apart the level of cooperation.” By Monday, he had no answers. “These are important days to determine whether or not Russia and the Assad regime are going to live up to the U.N.,” he said, adding, “the evidence thus far is very, very troubling.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Putin has no reason to respect such warnings from Mr. Kerry. Time and again, the secretary has declared that Russia must deliver or suffer consequences, such as a U.S. “Plan B” for Syria. Each time, Moscow has disregarded the jawboning — and Mr. Kerry has responded not with consequences but with new appeals for cooperation and more U.S. concessions. On Monday, he said, “We will see in the course of the next hours, few days, whether or not that dynamic” with Russia “can be changed.” But then, he spoke nearly the same words six months ago.

—The Washington Post, Aug. 2

More in Opinion

This July 16, 2019, file photo shows the Capitol Dome in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Opinion: The Respect for Marriage Act represents a balanced approach

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported a “fairness for all” approach

Deven Mitchell greets his fellow members of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s Board of Trustees at the start of his interview to be the APFC’s new executive director on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: It’s an honor to now lead Alaska’s largest renewable resource

As a lifelong Alaskan, leading APFC is my childhood dream come true

t
Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”