Russia Must Drop Support for Assad to End Syrian Civil War, ISIL

ISIS Flag  over white house
The United States is willing to work with Russia to end the civil war in Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but only when Russian President Vladimir Putin agrees that the country needs a political transition to an inclusive government without Bashar Assad, President Barack Obama said today.

Obama said during a White House news conference that he told Putin during discussions in New York that the only way to solve the problem in Syria is to have a political transition that not only keeps the state and military intact, but also is inclusive.

But Assad must go, the president said, because the vast majority of Syrians want him gone.

“I said to Mr. Putin that I’d be prepared to work with him if he is willing to broker with his partners, Mr. Assad and Iran, a political transition – we can bring the rest of the world community to a brokered solution,” the president said, “but that a military solution alone – an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population – is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work.”

Common Interest in Destroying ISIL

The entire world has a common interest in destroying ISIL Obama said he told Putin. “But what was very clear, and regardless of what Mr. Putin said, was that he doesn’t distinguish between ISIL and a moderate Sunni opposition that wants to see Mr. Assad go,” he added. “From [the Russian and Syrian] perspective, they’re all terrorists, and that’s a recipe for disaster. And it’s one that I reject.”

Since the meeting in New York, Russian aircraft have started bombing targets in Syria in support of the Assad regime. Coalition and Russian military officials are holding technical talks to “de-conflict” the airspace over Syria. Neither Russia nor the United States wants to see dogfights between their aircraft over the country, the president said.

‘The Problem Here is Assad’

“We’re very clear in sticking to our belief and our policy that the problem here is Assad and the brutality that he’s inflicted on the Syrian people, and that it has to stop,” the president said. “In order for it to stop, we’re prepared to work with all the parties concerned. But we are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior.”

Putin had to go into Syria, “not out of strength, but out of weakness” because Assad – the Russian client – was crumbling, Obama said. ”We’re prepared to work with the Russians and the Iranians, as well as our partners who are part of the anti-ISIL coalition, to come up with that political transition,” Obama said. “And nobody pretends that it’s going to be easy, but I think it is still possible.”

The president said lines of communication will remain open. “But we are not going to able to get those negotiations going if there’s not a recognition that there’s got a be a change in government,” the president continued. “We’re not going to back to the status quo ante.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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