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Friday, September 16

US-Russian Joint Effort to Battle ISIS is on Track

UPDATE 10:45 AM EDT
See also Sputnik "breaking news" report todayUS Gives Russia Data About Location of 'Moderate Rebels' in Syria for First Time

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American Russia expert Dr Stephen F. Cohen has been tearing out his hair about U.S. "hawks" doing everything possible to throw a wrench in the Syrian Cessation of Hostilities deal agreed upon by the US and Russia late last Friday. The list of these powerful opponents, which includes defense secretary Ashton Carter, is very long. That's not to mention the editorial pages of every anti-Russia newspaper in the USA and England, which means all of them, has been trumpeting opposition to the deal. 
     
And up to this point the first days of the seven-day Phase One of the CoH agreement, which kicked off at midnight Monday. have been fraught with problems and verbal sniping between the White House and Kremlin, with either side accusing the other of not living up to the terms of the agreement.

So I nearly choked on my popcorn last night when David Schenker matter-of-factly told John Batchelor that the Joint Implementation Center in Jordan, which is supposed to be set up in Phase Two of the stepwise CoH agreement, is forging ahead. This means it's as much going operational even before whether or not the first phase completes successfully.

He then spent the rest of his time on the John Batchelor Show detailing the adjustment problems that Jordan's military/intell agencies are working through, now that they've found themselves the hub of a joint US-Russian operation to wipe out Islamic State in Syria.

I confess my first reaction to this stupendous news, which if the consumer of mainstream reports is lucky will be announced sometime in the coming decade, was to grouse that I'd have to make sure David Schenker wasn't from outer space before I could believe a word he said. It turned out John Batchelor had already done this. From the show's Schedule page (Hour 2, Block C):
David Schenker is the Aufzien fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute. Previously, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Levant country director, the Pentagon's top policy aide on the Arab countries of the Levant. In that capacity, he was responsible for advising the secretary and other senior Pentagon leadership on the military and political affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories. He was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service in 2005.
So, not just another think-tank denizen; someone with actual knowledge of Jordan and with extensive contacts in the American and Jordanian defense establishments.

As to what Schenker's news means, I think it means President Barack Obama is determined to leave office in January saying, 'I told you they were the JV team.'  If this also means cooperating with Russia in Syria and even with Syria's military, so be it. Which I think is the first completely sensible move Obama has made in the Middle East -- and if Ashton Carter's prospective employers after he leaves the Pentagon don't like it, too bad.

Here's the podcast for David Schenker's discussion; the segment starts at the 29:15 minute mark. 

For details on the CoH agreement, see the September 10 Associated Press report, A look at details of US-Russia deal on Syria, and AP's September 15 report, In long and bloody Syria war, this truce may be different

As to the objections voiced to the CoH agreement from the US side, the major one is that by cooperating with Russia in intelligence-gathering and military operations against Islamic State and Al Qaeda-style fighters in Syria, the U.S. will have to share 'sources and methods' with the Russians. Which, the argument goes, the Russians might share with the Syrian military, especially if the CoH fails. 

So the concern is that the cooperation might compromise the 'moderate' head-choppers that the U.S. has been helping to fund and arm against Syria's government.

I don't think a rational person should have to stoop to answer such a concern. But rationality is a rarity in the U.S. War on Terror, which has featured the Obama Administration cooperating with terrorists in order to replace a secular government in Syria with an Islamist one. 

So I'll ask what kind of sources and methods are these, when American intelligence agencies didn't notice bumper-to-bumper oil tanker convoys on the main highway from Islamic State's stronghold in Syria to the Turkish border?

The Russian defense minister finally had to strip naked and run around the Pentagon parking lot waving satellite images of said convoys before somebody in the White House noticed and exclaimed, 'So that's how Islamic State funds itself!'

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