Reports that Russia is sending military personnel, some hardware and perhaps anti-aircraft and other weapons and soldiers to operate them to Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad has prompted the Obama administration to warn Russia that it risks a “confrontation” with the U.S. over its actions in Syria.
According to the NY Times, Secretary of State John Kerry has made it clear to Russia that aiding Assad with military assistance would be unacceptable and make things worse in Syria. Here’s a statement from the State Department:
“The secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria.”
Of course, the U.S. and its coalition are currently bombing ISIL in Syria which is no doubt leading to a “greater loss of innocent life” and increasing the number of refugees out of Syria, yet another reason our reluctance to accept more than a relatively few Syrian refugees is hypocritical and inhumane.
Certainly any Russian military involvement in Syria would be counter-productive and likely make the situation worse, apart from trying to bolster a brutal dictator. But we need to rethink the consequences of our own military actions in Syria and, rather than issuing vague threats to the Russians, sit down with Putin, etc. at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly. As Juan Cole reports on Informed Comment, Germany is also very concerned about recent Russian activity in Syria and is seeking talks with Russia. Hopefully all three nations, with the possible support of Iran, can work together towards putting an end to the Syrian civil war.
We clearly cannot bomb our way to peace and stability in Syria or anywhere else in the Middle East. The U.S. should gather with the other involved nations in New York, with all the combatants, and, rather than talking tough,
do the hard verbal work of achieving peace.