The Syrian civil war that was initially aimed at kicking President Bashar Al-Assad out of power has now turned into a proxy war between the United States and Russia. The U.S. has trained rebel groups, armed them and funded them to bring down Assad. But Russia has jumped into the fray to protect the Assad regime. Though Moscow claims that it is targeting ISIS militants in Syria, it has also admitted that it has been bombing the CIA-backed rebels.
Taking an aggressive stance could lead to World War 3
With Russian and the U.S. warplanes flying all over Syria, military experts have warned that an unintended conflict could trigger World War 3. A few days ago, an American F-16 fighter came within 20 miles of a Russian Sukhoi-34. On Tuesday, CBS ’60 Minutes’ reporter Steve Kroft challenged President Barack Obama’s strategies in Syria. Kroft also accused Obama of “embarrassing” failures and a lack of leadership.
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Steve Kroft is not the only one who has urged Obama to take a tougher stance against Russia. Many in Washington argue that Vladimir Putin’s actions in Syria threaten American “credibility” and its deterrence posture against Russia. But supplying more weapons to rebels, stepping up the U.S. military presence, or arming Ukraine against Russian-backed separatists would only make things worse, says Reuters’ The Great Debate Columnist Josh Cohen.
It may force Russia to respond by striking NATO members in Eastern Europe. So, an aggressive posture would be an option only if Obama is hell bent to trigger World War 3. Cohen says the U.S. needs to respond cautiously, and realize that Russia is nowhere as strong as the Soviet Union was. The only way to end the Syrian proxy war and avoid World War 3 is a political agreement, says Cohen.
There would be ‘no ideal outcome’ for the U.S.
Obama should make sure that the Pentagon continues its attempt to “de-escalate” the U.S. and Russian air operations in Syria. It would help avoid an accidental clash that could lead to a major conflict with unpredictable consequences. Meanwhile, the White House should use its P5+1 strategy that it used to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.
This strategy would ensure that interests of all stakeholders in Syria are taken into account. And the U.S. will have to stop demanding Assad’s ousting as a pre-condition for the talks. Cohen believes it is a price worth paying if it could end the slaughter in Syria and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents. All stakeholders in Syria face a common fear of the Islamic State, which should be a good starting point for P5+1 Syrian talks.
Cohen believes that there is “no ideal outcome” for the U.S. in the Syrian proxy war. But Obama can prevent a World War 3 by taking this approach.