It was already abundantly clear that President Obama was moving to kill the U.S.-Russian agreement to defeat terrorism in Syria, before Saturday afternoon’s airstrike by U.S. coalition forces against a Syrian army position. The strike reportedly killed 62 Syrian soldiers and injured over 100 others, after which the Deir ez-Zor airport which the Syrian soldiers had been defending was quickly over-run by ISIS.
On Friday night, Sept. 15, Obama blocked a planned UN Security Council meeting, where Council members were to have been briefed on the terms of U.S.-Russian agreement carefully hammered out by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, so that the UNSC could pass a resolution supporting the plan, which would then carry the weight of the international community. The briefing had to be cancelled, when the U.S. refused to allow any details to be released. Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that not only would the U.S. not allow the documents making up the agreement to be shared with the members of the Security Council, the U.S. would “not even describe them in detail.” How can you ask Council members to support an agreement whose content they are not allowed to know? Churkin asked.
“Clearly there is lack of unity in the U.S. administration” on implementing the agreement, he noted.
Earlier on Friday, Obama called a meeting of his National Security Council to bash heads on Syria policy. The White House came out of that brawl with another sophistry aimed at killing the Syria accord. According to the short White House read-out on the discussion, “the President emphasized that the United States will not proceed with the next steps in the arrangement with Russia until we see seven continuous days of reduced violence and sustained humanitarian access.”
Originally it had been reported that the Kerry-Lavrov agreement was for a ceasefire to begin at midnight on Sept. 12, and seven days later, and if the ceasefire held, the U.S. and Russia would then establish a Joint Implementation Center (JIC) to undertake joint actions against the terrorists. With the deadline nearing, Obama’s formulation of “seven continuous days of reduced violence and sustained humanitarian access” laid the basis to indefinitely put off that JIC which Obama and his war party, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Pentagon spokesmen (not necessarily the U.S. military command) had opposed from the outset.
Speaking on Saturday to reporters in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where he was attending a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), President Putin pointed to the regime change policy behind the U.S. insistence on keeping the documents secret. The U.S., always arguing for openness and transparency, perhaps now insists on keeping the documents secret, “because it will become clear to the international community, as well as to the American and Russian people, who is not fulfilling which obligations,” said Putin. The U.S. is having difficulty separating “the so-called healthy part of the opposition from the semi-criminal and terrorist elements,” a problem stemming from “the desire to preserve the military potential in the fight against the lawful government of President Assad. However, this is a slippery slope…. Our U.S. partners seem to be again falling into the same trap they have fallen into so many times,” he said.
The Russian side continued to insist the U.S. must, and can change from its pro-terrorist policy. Lavrov and Kerry are to meet several times next week at the United Nations. Putin told reporters, albeit before the coalition airstrike on the Syrian soldiers, that “I would like to reiterate that we feel more positive than negative about this and we expect that the promises made by the U.S. administration will be kept.”