By Baran Hines
The United States announced it is prepared to suspend “bilateral engagement” with Russia for a solution to end the Syria proxy war if the Syrian government forces continue offensive operations, Department of State spokesperson John Kirby said Wednesday. Secretary of State John Kerry told his counterpart Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Russia needed to take immediate action to influence the Syrian government forces to stop military operations in the strategic city of Aleppo, according to Kirby.
Spokesperson Kirby refused to give a specific date for a deadline on when the Syrian military operations needed to cease by to prevent further US action. Kirby also declined to give details when asked multiple times by reporters about what a U.S. response would look like if Russian officials were unwilling or unable to influence the Syrian government forces to stop fighting and honor the ceasefire agreed to by Russian and U.S. officials.
“The policy is we continue to support a diplomatic solution to this rather than a military one. But that doesn’t mean that as a government, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t still discussing other options and alternatives that might be available to us,” Kirby said.
On September 9, US and Russian officials agreed to influence Syrian government and opposition forces to honor a ceasefire which would lead to peace talks; however, most parties have continued fighting. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has allowed government forces to continue military offensives targeting the terrorist groups Al Nusra and Islamic State, as well as disputed groups who are called legitimate opposition by US officials. The September 9 cessation of hostilities agreement also included the goal of setting up a cooperative effort called the Joint Implementation Center designed to help the US and Russian militaries coordinate airstrikes against Al Nusra and Islamic State.
There was little discussion of the events which have caused Russia and Syria to lose confidence in the possibility that a ceasefire would work, specifically the bombing by US warplanes which killed 80 Syrian troops on September 17.
Kirby was later asked what incentive Russian and Syrian officials had to stop fighting and he gave an answer which suggests an escalation of the war.
“Opposition groups are certainly not going to pull back, extremist groups are likely going to expand and take advantage of the chaos, and the war will continue. And more Russian resources will be expended, more Russian lives will be lost, more Russian aircraft will be shot down, and they – and this will go on,” Kirby said.