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Reports of civilian casualties dim probabilities of U.S.-Russia alliance in Syria

WASHINGTON Reports of heavy civilian casualties from Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria are one essential cause why Washington is unlikely to coordinate airstrikes with Moscow against Islamic State, U.S. officials told Reuters, even as President Barack Obama left the door ajar on Tuesday to military cooperation with the Kremlin.

Appearing at a White House news conference with his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, Obama reiterated that Russia was “welcome to be component of this broad-based coalition that we’ve set up.” But very first, he mentioned, it should shift its focus from propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and redirect its airstrikes away from moderate rebels to hit Islamic State militants.

U.S. officials, nevertheless, said there are other obstacles to Russian participation in the U.S.-led coalition of some 60 nations that is hitting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

From the White Residence to the Pentagon, officials are concerned about widespread reports of mounting civilian casualties from Russian air strikes, even even though the concern has received far less public attention than the Assad government’s use of “barrel bombs” against unarmed civilians.

The United States, by operating with Moscow militarily in Syria, could be observed as complicit in the killing and wounding of civilians, U.S. officials mentioned, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They also mentioned they feared that U.S.-Russian military cooperation would strain U.S. ties with moderate rebel groups, some of whom Washington is backing militarily.

A U.S. official stated that Russia’s apparent lack of regard for civilian casualties was one particular of the reasons the United States has been reluctant to companion with Moscow. The official noted the lengths that the United States has gone to to stop civilian deaths, describing it as a core part of the U.S.-led coalition’s technique in Syria.


U.S. officials mentioned they did not dispute Syrian human rights activists’ allegations that Russian bombs and missiles have hit mosques, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, killing hundreds of individuals.

Colonel Steve Warren, a Baghdad-primarily based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, stated the U.S. military believes private estimates from non-governmental groups of the civilian death toll were almost certainly “fairly accurate.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated in a Nov. 20 report that at least 403 civilians, which includes far more than 160 girls and kids, had died in Russian airstrikes. Other organizations have diverse estimates.

“This is sloppy military function,” Warren said of the Russian airstrikes. “This is the reckless and irresponsible, imprecise and frankly uncaring strategy to operations in Syria that the Russians have taken on.”

Russia says its airstrikes are directed against the Islamic State, and it denies that it has killed civilians. It said earlier this month that it was “outraged” by a report by a U.S. organization, Physicians for Human Rights, that alleged it had bombed ten healthcare facilities in October.


Fadel Abdul Ghany, the head of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, place his organization’s latest count of civilian deaths in Russian airstrikes at 265. Most Russian attacks have been in opposition-held areas of northeastern Idlib Province, neighboring Latakia Province and about the contested northern city of Aleppo, he said.

The Obama administration has been cautious to keep away from calling interest to the civilian casualties. Washington is vulnerable to criticism for its personal airstrikes that U.S. officials say inadvertently killed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, most not too long ago final month in a hospital in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz.

1 explanation why Russia’s airstrikes are killing civilians, according to U.S. officials, is its heavy reliance on “dumb bombs,” as opposed to precision-guided munitions. One U.S. government supply also mentioned many of Russia’s targets in Syria have been supplied by Assad’s government.

The United Nations estimates that some 250,000 folks have died in Syria’s civil war and 11 million uprooted from their residences, such as far more than four million who have fled the country.

The administration has other issues about closer military cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has referred to as for coordinating airstrikes with the U.S.-led coalition.

Washington has had rocky relations with numerous of the Syrian rebel groups that it has armed. Even if Russia shifted the focus of its airstrikes to the Islamic State, U.S. officials worry that allying with Russia could fray relations further.

Ultimately, Putin’s failure to guarantee that pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine implement a February 2015 peace deal is however an additional factor, the officials mentioned.

Lieutenant Common Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, said Putin’s openness to coordinating militarily with Washington is producing America’s Eastern European allies uneasy.

“There is concern amongst many East European allies and Ukraine that this will allow Russia to sort of come out of its isolation,” Hodges told Reuters, referring to the international sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Further dampening prospects of U.S.-Russian cooperation, NATO ally Turkey, shot down a Russian fighter jet on Tuesday. It accused Moscow of violating its airspace as it carries out strikes against non-Islamic State targets across the border in Syria.

Until now, communication amongst the United States and Russian militaries on Syria has been restricted to contacts aimed at avoiding an accidental clash in the skies as they carry out rival bombing campaigns.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Mark Hosenball, editing by Ross Colvin)

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Agen Sabung Ayam – News Analysis: For France, an Alliance Against ISIS May possibly Be Easier Stated Than Done

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PARIS — By attacking civilian targets effectively beyond its territory, the Islamic State has seemingly achieved what diplomats had failed to do. All of a sudden, the international order has been scrambled, drawing the United States, Russia and France together in a feasible alliance against the terrorist group.

Every single of the 3 longtime powers now has its own reasons for wanting to destroy the Islamic State soon after the pitiless attacks on civilians in Paris and the downing of a Russian passenger jet carrying vacationers. President Obama has provided intelligence to facilitate French airstrikes and suggested he was open to far more cooperation with Russia.

But so far, that alliance remains largely theoretical. Even as President François Hollande of France requires on the function of bridge builder with back-to-back trips subsequent week to Washington and Moscow, strong centrifugal forces are nonetheless pulling the would-be partners apart as competing national interests challenge efforts to translate that newly shared aspiration into a sustained collaboration more than time.

Mr. Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin harbor fundamental disagreements more than a host of problems that have not been dissolved by the Paris attacks. Dividing them are the Russian annexation of Crimea and its meddling in eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s efforts to demonize Washington and undermine self-confidence in NATO’s commitment to collective defense, and the Kremlin’s assistance of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Graphic | Untangling the Overlapping Conflicts in the Syrian War What started as a well-known uprising against the Syrian government 4 years ago has grow to be a proto-world war with nearly a dozen nations embroiled in two overlapping conflicts.

“It’s certainly a good factor for us and a great thing for France if we have a a lot more coordinated strategy toward these airstrikes in Syria,” mentioned Karen Donfried, a former White Residence adviser to Mr. Obama who is now the president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “But how committed Russia actually is about taking on the Islamic State, I don’t believe any of us really knows. I stay genuinely skeptical that our interests converge right here.”

Strobe Talbott, the president of the Brookings Institution and a former deputy secretary of state, mentioned any genuine alliance would demand a seismic alter in the Russians’ strategy toward Syria, exactly where they say they are attempting to fight terrorism but seem more bent on preserving Mr. Assad.

“Maybe it is getting by means of to them,” Mr. Talbott stated. “They preserve speaking about being component of a resolution. But they speak the speak of getting part of the remedy and they walk the walk of becoming element of the problem.”

Just how complicated assembling such a coalition would be was underscored Wednesday when French diplomats at the United Nations started discussions with colleagues on the Safety Council on a draft measure authorizing force against the Islamic State. The French ambassador, François Delattre, described it as “short, powerful and focused on the fight against our frequent enemy.”

But just as France prepared to share its measure with council diplomats, Russia floated a proposal of its own, resurrecting a draft resolution that went nowhere earlier this fall because it insisted on cooperating with the government of nations affected by terrorism — in Syria’s case, with Mr. Assad. Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian ambassador, stated failing to perform with the government “is certainly weakening the possibility of a joint fight against terrorists.”

Aides stated privately that Mr. Obama was skeptical, but in meetings in Turkey, the Philippines, Austria and Paris over the last couple of days, he and his secretary of state, John Kerry, have held their reservations and broached the possibility of Russia and the United States working together to defeat the Islamic State.

Following meeting with Mr. Putin final weekend in Turkey, Mr. Obama said in Manila on Wednesday that Russia had been “a constructive partner” in talks in Vienna searching for a road map for a cease-fire in the Syrian civil war that has offered rise to the Islamic State. But for additional cooperation, he said, Mr. Putin should direct significantly less at the Syrian rebels supported by the United States and more at the Islamic State, also recognized as ISIS or ISIL.

“The problem has been in their initial military incursion into Syria, they have been far more focused on propping up President Assad,” Mr. Obama said. If Mr. Putin “shifts his focus and the focus of his military to what is the principal threat, which is ISIL, then that is what we want to see.”

Interactive Feature | Most recent Updates Get the newest from the attacks Friday in Paris.

Mr. Hollande, under huge stress at residence after the attacks, is attempting to take the diplomatic initiative. Sensing a chance for rapprochement, he plans to travel to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Mr. Obama, and then to Moscow to meet with Mr. Putin. Mr. Hollande stated on Wednesday that he desires to forge “a massive coalition” to act “decisively” against the Islamic State.

In pursuing such a coalition, Mr. Hollande was cautious not to ask the NATO alliance to come to France’s defense below Write-up five, which obligates members to aid one one more in case of attack. That write-up has been invoked only once, right after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Given Mr. Obama’s adamant resistance to putting huge numbers of American ground forces in Syria or Iraq, a French diplomat said on Wednesday that Paris was unwilling to embarrass Mr. Obama by “asking for the impossible.”

Alternatively, to broaden France’s diplomatic support, Mr. Hollande invoked an unusual article in the Lisbon Treaty governing the European Union. Post 42.7 states that if a member is topic to “armed aggression on its territory” other members have an “obligation of help and assistance by all the means in their power” constant with their obligations to NATO.

Graphic | ISIS Is Probably Accountable for Almost 1,000 Civilian Deaths Outdoors Iraq and Syria At least a dozen countries have had attacks considering that the Islamic State, or ISIS, began to pursue a global technique in the summer season of 2014.

Asked on Twitter why France invoked the European Union treaty and not the NATO charter, Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to Washington, wrote that one reason was “the dialogue with Russia.” The implication was that Russia is hostile toward NATO and as a result invoking the alliance’s help may well be provocative toward Moscow.

The European Union nations voted unanimously to help France, but the treaty does not commit them to military action and intelligence sharing is already effectively created. No other European nation has been willing to confront Islamic radicalism as the French have, at property and in Mali, Iraq and Syria.

Even Britain, nonetheless bruised from its participation in the Iraq invasion of 2003, has not been prepared to strike inside Syria. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to seek approval from Parliament ahead of action in Syria and to proceed only if he has “a clear majority.” The election of Jeremy Corbyn, the new tough-left Labour Celebration leader, has not produced that less difficult.

The United States, Europe and Russia have had moments given that the Cold War when their interests converged. Walter Slocombe, a former under secretary of defense, recalled that the American and Russian militaries worked together in Bosnia and Kosovo. In Bosnia, he mentioned, “it worked out O.K., but that was a different Russia and an practically completely benign environment.”

Interactive Feature | How ISIS Expanded Its Threat The Islamic State emerged from a group of militants in Iraq to take more than massive portions of Iraq and Syria, and now threatens other countries in Europe and elsewhere.

The Obama administration is suspicious that beyond bolstering Mr. Assad, Russia’s real goal in Syria is taking consideration off Ukraine — in impact, trading the status quo for collaboration in the Middle East. “Are we willing to give up on Ukraine?” asked Ivo H. Daalder, Mr. Obama’s former ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on International Affairs. “I’m worried that we fall in this trap.”

Beyond the United States, Russia and Europe, there are other players in Syria, specifically Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Mr. Kerry has worked to forge a consensus among them. But as Mr. Daalder mentioned, “except for France and the United States, at this point no 1 thinks going after ISIS is the initial priority.”

With out that, he mentioned, “I don’t see this as a new coalition.”

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