The US State department has said that Russia must change its strategy in Syria if it wants to join US-led anti-ISIS coalition.
Russia is not welcome to join the US-led coalition in Syria until it changes its “focus” and stops “propping up” President Assad, yet Washington continues to insist their goal is not to defeat Assad.
An appeal to expand the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State came from French President Francois Hollande three days after deadly attacks in Paris a week ago. Stating that “France is at war,” Hollande called for the creation of a “large coalition,” which could unite forces with Russia “to achieve a result that has taken too long.”
The grand coalition is going to be the focus of separate talks President Hollande will have with his American and Russian counterparts in coming days. The French leader is expected to hold talks in Washington on November 24 and in Moscow on November 26.
However, the US State Department says that Russia’s involvement in the coalition would depend on Moscow’s “commitment.”
“But in order for that to work, every member of the coalition has to have the same focus on defeating ISIL, and thus far we, talking about Russia, haven’t seen that same commitment,” Kirby said, referring to Russia’s support for the Syrian President Bashar Assad. “It’s inconsistent with the goals of the coalition, which is to defeat ISIL, if you’re also propping up the Assad regime.”
Washington has reiterated that there would be no discussions until Moscow changes its strategy: “If Russia is serious about this, about going after ISIL, and changing the calculus of military activities it’s conducting inside Syria, then it’s great and we will be willing to have a discussion with them about how they might be able to contribute to the coalition operations.”
The statement has prompted Said Arikat, Washington Bureau Chief for Al-Quds, to ask Kirby to clarify what the coalition’s priority actually was, because “the issue of Assad keeps coming up all the time.”
“So what’s the core goal? To beat Assad or ISIS? On a scale of one to ten – is one larger than the other?” Arikat asked Kirby.
Despite, as is claimed by the State Department, the main goal of coalition being defeating Islamic State and curbing terrorism, President Assad remains a serious concern for Washington.
“There is nothing in the coalition’s mandate to remove Assad from power,” Kirby responded, adding that removing the current Syrian government would be “mutually supportive” in beating IS and “keeping them out.”
“But militarily, specifically militarily, the goal of the coalition to counter ISIL is about countering ISIL,” the State Department spokesman said.