‘Pentagon sniping at Obama’s strategy of cooperation with Russia’

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) © Kevin Lamarque
The Pentagon has its own bureaucratic self-interest in the so-called new Cold War with Russia, which differs from President Obama’s strategy, as it is getting a lot of Congressional money based on that confrontation, investigative journalist Gareth Porter told RT.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the US military are apparently in no hurry to follow President Obama’s orders regarding cooperation with Moscow on Syria.

“We can only guess why they decided to convene an emergency [UN Security Council] meeting on a day off. Although it’s not hard to guess. It’s obvious that the West, headed by the US which leads the coalition against ISIS and – as they say – Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, is failing to meet its obligations,” Lavrov said in an interview with the Russian NTV channel. 

He also said the US Commander-in-Chief, President Obama, “as I was assured” always supported cooperation with Russia. That was also confirmed during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in China.

“Apparently, the military does not quite obey the Commander-in Chief,” Lavrov said.

RT: The chances of a renewed ceasefire in Syria and military cooperation between the US and Russia are getting slimmer and slimmer after increased violence. US Secretary of the State John Kerry has been pushing to try to work together with Russia on the ground in Syria. The Pentagon doesn’t seem to be behind his plan though, does it?

Gareth Porter: I think Kerry was following the orders of the President on this. It’s clear President Obama has been committed to cooperation with Russia as the primary aspect of the US strategy in Syria for the past year roughly. Definitely the Pentagon, for much of 2016, has been openly sort of sniping at that whole strategy. And it came to a head with the finishing of the negotiations between [Sergey] Lavrov and Kerry on the 9th [of September.]

That same day Kerry was not allowed not sign, but to reach a formal agreement until there was a five hour video conference session at which he was grilled primarily by people from the Pentagon, led by Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense. So that set the stage for this drama of the following week starting with early in week in the Pentagon they were even saying, even though the President had ruled in favor of going ahead with the agreement as planned, the Pentagon officials were still saying early the following week: “We’re not in favor of this.” They openly questioned it.

In fact the head of the CENTCOM Air Force was quoted by journalists at the Pentagon, saying “we’re not going to say it, we’re going to go ahead with this.” This is to say with cooperation militarily with Russia.

RT: What was the Pentagon’s plan if the ceasefire actually did work and the next step was working together with Russia for military cooperation?

GP: My view is that the Pentagon was dead set against it; they have their own bureaucratic self-interest in not having cooperation with Russia, which is extremely important to them; the reason being that they’re in a so-called new Cold War with Russia and they’re getting a lot of Congressional money based on that promise. So they don’t want to have that promise challenged by this idea of close cooperation militarily with Russia in Syria.

That is why I think the rest of the story then plays out during that week that the Pentagon essentially forced the White House to make a major concession saying: “Well, we’ve now changed our position. We were going to have the start of this joint program with the Russians – the joint center for implementing the agreement with the Russians, if there were the seven days of the reasonable ceasefire. Now we’re going to say only if the humanitarian aid has gone through and we’re not going to say exactly when.”

Nevertheless it was still in the cards, as far as the White House was concerned to go ahead with the cooperation with Russia. It was in those circumstances that we had this extremely questionable airstrike by the US-led coalition in Deir ez-Zor against the Syrian government forces in the situation where it is very difficult to believe that it wasn’t very clear what the two sides were, because it had been very stable for a number of months in that location. The ISIS/ISIL/DAESH forces were surrounding this set of mountaintop, hilltop basis that was protecting the Deir ez-Zor airport. And how it is possible that they could have made that mistake – it is very difficult to understand.

[The US official line that it was a mistake] came so conveniently in terms of the timing and the effect – that they must have known it would have on Russian and Syrian policy toward the ceasefire. The achievement of this cooperation with the US was clearly the primary interest of the Russians in terms of having the ceasefire go ahead.

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