Obama’s New Best Friend in Syria: Vladimir Putin

But despite mild criticism of Wednesday’s strikes by U.S. officials—mainly over Moscow’s last-miinute notification—there were indications that the Russians were at least partly targeting arms depots controlled by Jaish al-Fatah, the umbrella group for al Qaeda and other radical Islamist factions in Syria that, at this point, constitutes the main military opposition to the Assad regime, according to Joshua Landis, a well-known Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma who is an occasional advisor to the U.S. government. Ironically, Jaish al-Fatah seized many of those weapons from U.S.-supplied secular rebels as a result of America’s botched train-and-supply program, “so the Russians are basically trying to correct our mistakes,” Landis said. “America can’t complain because it’s al Qaeda and that’s who this war is supposed to be against.”


Secretary of State John Kerry has scheduled several meetings on Syria in New York this week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; the third is set for Wednesday. Kerry also sat down with Assad’s other biggest ally, Iran—specifically with Javad Zarif, Iran’s American-educated foreign minister, with whom Kerry has grown much closer to in the course of the Iran nuclear deal. (Zarif, for his part, made history by shaking Obama’s hand in New York.) In a TV interview, Kerry sketched out how “in exchange perhaps for something that we might do,” he had discussed with his Russian and Iranian counterparts putting pressure on Assad to keep him from dropping barrel bombs.


Read More: Obama’s New Best Friend in Syria: Vladimir Putin – POLITICO Magazine