Russia has been treating Syria as "essentially a client state" for years, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday morning, and is taking action now to "shore up" its investment while Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is losing power.
"[They are] responding from a position of weakness to salvage what remains there," Earnest told CNN'S "New Day."
"What we want to make sure of is those efforts don't come into conflict and don't interfere with the very important efforts that our 62-member coalition is engaged in right now to ultimately defeat and destroy ISIL."
Meanwhile, the news that Iraq has created an intelligence deal
to share information with Iran, Russia, and Syria reflects the actions of "individual sovereign countries" representing their own interests, said Earnest.
We have gone down the path of the United States trying to control exactly what happens inside of Iraq," said Earnest. "That didn't serve our interests very well."
But the cooperation agreement, said Earnest, "is certainly better than the United States committing a certain number of ground troops in Iraq and Syria. What we want to try to do is work with the Iraqis and the rest of the international community to keep the fight focused on ISIL."
The United States has made its case that Assad, whose "failed leadership" enabled ISIL to establish its foothold in Syria, means he's lost the legitimacy to lead his nation, and "we'd like to work with other countries to facilitate the political transition that's necessary to ultimately solve this problem," Earnest continued.
President Barack Obama is to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, and Earnest said that part of that conversation will be to give Russia the opportunity to contribute to the coalition that is fighting the Islamic State's threat.
"We've made a lot of important progress in ISIL in Iraq and Syria," said Earnest. "In about 30 percent of the territory they previously controlled, they can no longer operate freely there."
Earnest also on the Monday show addressed the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner, telling CNN that it "sounds like he made a prayerful decision."
"There's no denying how even from the outside, how frustrating it appeared his job was to try to corral a Republican conference that in recent years had grown," said Earnest.
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