Tragic irony: 15 years after 9/11, US partnering with Al-Qaeda in Syria

Syrian army troops are in Ramouseh district in southern Aleppo. © Mikhail Alaeddin
It remains difficult to negotiate a settlement in Syria because many in the region feel the US is only interested in regime change, author and historian Gerard Horne told RT.

Syria's nationwide ceasefire began at 7pm Damascus time (16:00 GMT) on Monday, the result of marathon talks between Russia and the US last week. The Russian Defense Ministry says Moscow and the US will create a joint center to define terrorist targets.

The truce includes a cessation of hostilities and the creation of a demilitarized zone around Aleppo. The Syrian government has agreed to end airstrikes in some areas avoiding opposition groups not linked to terror groups like al-Nusra or ISIS.

If the ceasefire holds for at least a week, the United States and Russia will then work together to target terror groups.

The agreement's initial aims also include allowing humanitarian access to the besieged areas.

RT: Now that a new milestone in terms of cooperation between the US and Russia has been reached, how much, in your opinion, will it affect the situation in the region?

Gerald Horne: Let us hope that is has a positive effect in the region. I’m reminded of what President Obama said at the G20 meeting in China – after his meeting with President Putin - when he said there was a “trust gap” between the two nations. He didn’t mention that the origin of that trust gap rests with the ill-advised US intervention in Libya, which the US said was to protect civilians amid regime change. That poisoned the well of relations between Moscow and Washington; it poisoned the well of relations between the African Union and Washington. And it is also now troubling and disrupting an effort to get a settlement in Syria because many in the region feel the US is interested in regime change. That is to say deposing President Assad more so than getting a regional settlement and a peaceful settlement.

RT: Despite the steps taken together by the sides, some US officials seem skeptical about the deal. What's your take on it?

GH: I think it evades the central question. My understanding is that this new accord does not preclude Damascus from attacking ISIS-related forces or Al-Qaeda-related forces. The problem for the US is that the so-called moderate rebels that they are supporting or backed are oftentimes integrated with the Al-Qaeda backed forces. The State Department spokesperson was evading that question with his remarks.

RT: The White House has been criticized for supporting questionable "moderate" opposition groups, such as Ahrar Al-Sham, which have been involved in many cases of civilian casualties. Do you think it's fair for US authorities to shift responsibility without cutting ties to groups that are continuing to disrupt peace in the country?

GH: It’s ironic that 24 hours after the solemn celebration in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania marking the 15th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda attack on the US, that, as we speak, the US is figuratively in bed with Al-Qaeda-like forces in Syria. This exposes, it seems to me, the contradiction and the hypocrisy of the US foreign policy.

RT: Do you think it is possible to establish a new Syrian government with the contrasting visions the US and Russia have for who should be put in power in the country? What steps do you think should be taken first in resolving this issue?

GH: Part of the problem is that a close US ally - that is Saudi Arabia - wants to see the departure of the Assad regime in Damascus. Recall that up until recently and perhaps even now, Ankara also has wanted to see the departure of President Assad. Ankara, of course, is the south-eastern flank of NATO dominated by the US. And given the fact that these two allies of Washington are seeking to oust President Assad, it’s going to be very difficult to come to an agreement because, as Moscow suggests quite rightly, this should be the option for the Syrian people to decide who will govern them, not Saudi Arabia, not Turkey and certainly not the US.

"Syria desperately needs a ceasefire and a political agreement is necessary to that. I have to say on one side, America and Russia coming together with the support of the Assad government, with the support of Iran, means on that side a ceasefire will be a success. I think the problem comes from other players, like Turkey and Saudi Arabia in particular, who have armed and financed some of these groups… and are using many of them as satraps." - Chris Bambery, political analyst

RT: What can we expect further on the ground in Syria?

GH: What I expect is the Assad regime to coordinate with Moscow, then Moscow in turn will coordinate with Washington. I guess that that removes the alleged stain on Washington cooperating with Assad, who has been demonized not only in Washington, but by the so-called mainstream press of the US. That is quite a result where Damascus coordinates with Moscow, then Moscow coordinates with Washington maybe the best that we can expect right now.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.