The Pentagon and CIA do not believe Russia will honor the ceasefire agreement in Syria arrived at this week, according to sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal.
Officials want to apply more “pressure on Moscow” to make sure they keep their end of the bargain. The Wall Street Journal reports that Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, and CIA Director John Brennan all have indicated they want to “inflict real pain on the Russians” should they break the ceasefire.
According to The Wall Street Journal:
The emerging alliance of Russia hawks exposes discord among defense and diplomatic officials and could put pressure on Mr. Obama to take stronger action against Moscow. But doing so risks pulling the U.S. deeper into a proxy fight in Syria, with Moscow showing little sign of lessening its support for President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government said Tuesday it accepted the proposed cease-fire, announced a day earlier by the U.S. and Russia. But it said military operations would continue not only against Islamic State and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front—both designated by the United Nations as terrorist organizations—but against “other terrorist groups connected to them” as well.
Secretary of State John Kerry declared at the time:
If implemented and adhered to, this cessation will not only lead to a decline in violence, but also continue to expand the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian supplies to besieged areas and support a political transition to a government that is responsive to the desires of the Syrian people.
Spokespeople for the Pentagon, CIA, and Gen. Dunford did not reply for comment.
“We’ll judge Russia by its actions, not its words,” one senior administration official told The Wall Street Journal, adding:
To be clear: Our actions are not aimed at Russia. Our focus, however, does not change the fact that Russia, by increasingly involving itself in a vicious conflict on the side of a brutal dictator, will become enmeshed in a quagmire. Should it not change course, Russia’s fate will be self-inflicted.
The three men voiced these concerns during meetings with Secretary Kerry. The official told the Journal that “the agreement was partially intended to test whether Moscow can be trusted.” If they violate the agreement, the official said, “Plan-B thinking needs to occur.”
Russia began airstrikes in Syria on September 30, only a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President Barack Obama. The Defense Ministry insisted their forces only targeted areas occupied by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but the strikes occurred in areas with no known Islamic State presence, most populated by rebel groups opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. CNN reports:
A senior U.S. defense official told CNN the Pentagon was “taken aback” by Russia’s actions. “Our presidents just talked about setting up de-confliction talks and now they just go ahead and do this? They cannot be trusted.”
A second U.S. official said: “This is not how military relations are conducted, by banging on the door of our embassy and reading a note.”
Residents in Syria echoed the same worries as American officials. The two countries agreed weeks ago to a ceasefire that never took hold. Syrian residents reported no evidence the bombing ever stopped. Some told The New York Times that officials prevented them from re-entering Syria when they escaped to Turkey.
“The deals they make there are so isolated and detached from this reality here,” cried Faisal, 25, who only provided a first name.
The Times also spoke with moderate groups supported by the U.S., who “dismissed the cease-fire plan as naïve and fanciful.” They expected Russia to continue bombing any opposition against Assad since the agreement allowed bombing against Islamic State and Nusra Front.
“Russia will continue bombing Nusra and Daesh [ISIS],” stated fighter Yusef Farrouh. “And we know what Russia means by ‘Nusra’ and ‘Daesh’ — us. If we thought Russia was bombing Nusra clearly and specifically, we would have moved away from them.”