Tags: Barack Obama | Donald Trump | ISIS/Islamic State | Russia | Syria | Adam Schiff | foreign policy

Rep. Schiff: Russia Playing 'Rope-a-Dope' With Obama on Syria

MSNBC's "Morning Joe"

By    |   Thursday, 22 Dec 2016 12:35 PM

Russia has been going through the motions of negotiation when it comes to Syria, but in reality, "what they want to do is buy time for the military assault on Aleppo," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said Thursday.

"I think the problem has been that most of the communications, apart from the very specific military communications to deconflict airspace in Syria, most communications have been pretty valueless," the Schiff told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I think the Russians for most of the last year have played rope-a-dope with the administration, with Secretary [John] Kerry."

There have been some talks with Russia, Schiff said, "but they have been largely fruitless tasks, and I think this was just the Russians' way of poking their finger in our eye in the eye of the administration."

Part of the problem, Schiff said, is there has not been any "what if" to back up Kerry.

"He could talk all he wanted, and I admire his tenacity and his relentless pursuit of peace in the region," Schiff said. "But unless there was a 'what if,' unless the Russians had some sense they would pay a cost if they didn't help bring the Syrian regime to the table, there was little the Russians wanted to do to help us."

Schiff said he would have liked to have seen sincere negotiations to end the violence and far more attention on avoiding civilian casualties, but the Russians were not interested in that, and the United States had little leverage to bring it about.

"I think that what we have seen since the election is an acceleration of Russia's military efforts," Schiff said. "They want to do as much as they can. They don't care about provoking the Obama administration. They realize they're going to have to have some kind of a different policy once Donald Trump takes office, but they wanted to accomplish as much as they could militarily before that took place."

With the Obama administration on its way out, Schiff said he does not think there is much left it can do concerning Russia.

"I think the Russians simply want to wait out the Obama administration," Schiff said. "The question is what will the new incoming administration do? Will it continue to, as it has expressed, make common cause with the Russians in Syria? Will it help the Russians eliminate the moderate opposition? Never mind going after ISIS. That's been obviously a second-tier priority, which you can see from the fact that ISIS recaptured Palmyra while the Russians were bombing Aleppo."

There is probably one remaining action the Obama administration can take, and that is to try to continue helping Aleppo's humanitarian crisis, and to help get out as many people as possible.

As far as the Trump administration is concerned, it will need to balance its wish to have a different relationship with Russia, with the fact "the Russian interests are not the same as ours in Syria."

There are also different goals when it comes to eliminating ISIS or al-Qaida, Schiff said.

"The preservation of the Assad regime is not in our interest," he commented. "That means the refugee crisis will continue, the insurgency, the war will look more like an insurgency rather than the ground-holding rebel enclaves we have seen in the past."

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Russia has been going through the motions of negotiation when it comes to Syria, but in reality, "what they want to do is buy time for the military assault on Aleppo," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said Thursday.
Adam Schiff, foreign policy, House, committee
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2016-35-22
Thursday, 22 Dec 2016 12:35 PM
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