Pentagon Opens Dialogue with Russia on Syria to ‘Avoid Misjudgment’

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has officially ordered senior Department of Defense (DOD) officials to begin communicating with Russia on matters related to the Syrian conflict in an effort to avoid miscalculations and misjudgments, according to the Pentagon.

President Obama, during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, said his administration is willing to work with Iran and Russia on defeating the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria.

“We are witnessing the dismantling of our traditional allies,” Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Breitbart News, in response to Obama vowing to “compromise” with Iran and Russia. “This is what happens when our president disengages and retreats from the field — we create a vacuum.”

“That vacuum is filled either by our competitors in the case of China in the South China Sea or our adversaries in the case of Russia with their expansion of territory and influence in the Ukraine and into the Middle East,” added the former commander at Navy SEAL Team Six. “That vacuum is filled in some cases by our enemy, which is Iran. What we’re seeing is a shift now where the road to Damascus now goes through Moscow and that is the result of failed policy.”

The U.S. and Russia are at odds about what to do with Bashar Assad. American officials blame Assad for the civil war in Syria and want him removed from power while Russia considers the Syrian dictator a longtime ally.

“This morning Secretary Carter directed his staff to open lines of communication with Russia on [the] ‘deconfliction’ [of air operations carried out by the two super powers in Syria],” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters Tuesday. “We expect the details of those conversations including the exact timing of those conversations will be worked out in the coming days.”

In late September, as Russia was establishing its first major airbase in Syria, Cook told reporters that Secretary Carter was going to suspend “deconfliction” discussions with Russia.

Furthermore, as news reports surfaced earlier in September that Russia was deploying military equipment and personnel to Syria, the Pentagon expressed concerns about Moscow’s activities there.

“As the president discussed in New York, the United States and Russia have a common interest in fighting ISIL in Syria. The purpose of these ‘deconflicting’ discussions will be to ensure that ongoing coalition air operations are not interrupted by any future Russian military activity, to ensure the safety of coalition air crews, and to avoid misjudgment and miscalculation,” he continued.

Cook went on to say that Secretary Carter made it clear to his Russian counterpart, Minister of Defense Sergei Shoygu, that America’s goal is to combat ISIS, not to provide any sort of support to the Assad regime.

“We do not want an accident to take place so that is one of the key motivators for moving this forward, but in terms of what the details will be going forward, in terms of what those conversations are going to amount to, we have to wait for those conversations to take place,” declared the Pentagon spokesman.

“Our first goal is to avoid conflict in the air between any future Russian military activities and the ongoing activities of the coalition,” he added. “We do not want their activities to interfere with what’s happening and that’s our expectations.”

As the conversations between the U.S. and Russia develops, the Pentagon will gain a better idea of what Moscow’s intentions in Syria are, argued Cook.

Rep. Zinke, former commander of U.S. special forces in Iraq, suggested that the U.S. should “deal directly” with the Syrian government, defeat ISIS, and then worry about removing Assad from power.

“I think the key to prevent ISIS from expanding further is you’re going to have to deal directly with Syria,” Zinke told Breitbart News. “I think the correct way has always been we’re going to have to lead a coalition to remove ISIS from the desert and then we can remove Assad, but before we remove another dictator like the case in Libya, we better have plan of what is beyond Assad.”

“I’ve changed my views in the last 6 to 8 months only because this administration has fumbled so bad,” he continued. “We don’t have a policy in Syria. What we have is a lot of wishful thinking.”


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