The Pentagon and US army are not following the orders of their Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama in the execution of the military cooperation accord in Syria concluded by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Sept. 12.
Five days after the truce they agreed would go into effect Monday, fighting was still raging Saturday, Sept. 17. debkafile was the only Western publication to foresee this eventuality in an article published on July 18.
It was already evident then that any military cooperation agreement between the two powers would be contingent on America exposing its intelligence-gathering methods to Russia – not just in Syria but worldwide.
As our military sources predicted, this new intelligence sharing arrangement would necessarily extend to the Syrian Air Force as a third partner. In advance of the deal, Moscow deployed its aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kutzenov, post haste to Syrian waters, to make sure that the Joint Implementation Center set up by the Kerry-Lavrov deal for intelligence-sharing would also apply to the warplanes and cruise missiles on the carrier’s decks and its escort of missile cruisers.
This deal was perceived in Moscow as an opportunity to study the combat methods and tactics practiced by the US Navy and Air force in real battlefield conditions. But this eventuality was far from the intentions of US security and intelligence chiefs at a time of deepening adversity between Washington and Moscow.
The remarks of State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Thursday, Sept. 5 hinted at these conflicting perceptions: “I don’t think anyone in the US government is necessarily taking at face value Russia’s – or certainly not the Syrian regime’s – commitment to this arrangement.” He went on to say: “What really matters here is that the president of the United States supports this agreement, and our system of government works in such a way that everyone follows what the president says.”
Is that really so?
The fact that Kerry’s spokesman found it necessary to emphasize that “everyone follows what the president says,” strongly indicated that not everyone in Washington was in fact obeying the president. Such disobedience is almost unheard of and would never be admitted publicly. In this case, it is being kept carefully under wraps.Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford will never on any account admit that, in the execution of military collaboration with Russia in the Syrian conflict, they are not exactly carrying out the president’s precise instructions.
But Washington sources report that Defense Secretary Carter maintains that he can’t act against a law enacted by Congress. He was referring to the law that prohibits all military-to-military relations with Russia as a result of Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.
According to debkafile’s military sources, they are simply dragging their feet in ground operations. This is driving Vladimir Putin and his generals into fits of rage. Friday, Sept 16, Lavrov accused the US of “stalling on its promise to separate moderate rebel groups in Syria from terrorists,” adding, “US progress in delivering on the promise is slow.”
Saturday, Putin himself burst out that the rebels were “regrouping under the ceasefire.” He put the blame on those “rebels” for the failure of the agreed truce to take effect after five days.
Our military and intelligence sources see a connection between Putin’s angry outburst and the rising tensions on the Syrian-Israeli border in the past week, culminating in the two Syrian rockets that were shot down Saturday over the Golan by Israel’s Iron Dome batteries.
For some time, the Russians and Syrians have made no bones about their objection to Israel’s policy of supporting a motley assortment of Syrian rebel groups in southern Syria close to its border. Among these groups is Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm Jabhat Al-Nusra (the Nusra Front) that has renamed itself Jahat Fath Al-Sham.
Whatever Assad, Iran or Hizballah may accept or reject, President Putin utterly refuses to tolerate Israel allowing the Nusra Front to control parts of this border sector.
Therefore, the rockets and missiles apparently “straying” across the border onto the Golan may well multiply in the coming days.
Yet another complication raised its head over the weekend when the US-backed rebel militia, the Free Syrian Army, vented its fury over the Kerry-Lavrov truce deal by driving away American Special Operations troops helping them in the battle for Al-Rai and abusing them as “infidels.”
The US blames the Russian leader for failing to force Bashar Assad to hold his fire and to let emergency supplies reach the beleaguered population in Aleppo, thereby undermining their ceasefire accord.
But it is becoming evident that the brutal standoff in Syria will be sustained until Putin is satisfied that the US is cooperating with Russian forces in Syria and the Mediterranean region in all spheres.
Before he decides to lean hard on Assad to cease hostilities, he will want to see the White House twisting the arms of the Pentagon and US forces to play ball in the most sensitive spheres.