Obama Turns Up Pressure on Putin over Syria
US President Barack Obama warned Russia faces fierce international rebuke if it continues to make common cause with Syria's government, signaling a renewed push to end the bloody five-year war Thursday.
Obama said Russia risked casting itself as an "irresponsible actor" on the world stage, after meeting with top aides at the Pentagon.
Eying a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo -- the besieged northwestern city of 250,000 people that was once Syria's commercial hub -- Obama said it was "time for Russia to show that it is serious" about bringing peace.
For five years Russian President Vladimir Putin had steadfastly supported the Syrian government, offering international cover, military aid and in the last year carrying out its own strikes in anti-Assad areas.
Without material Russian and Iranian support it is doubtful Assad could have held on to power.
Putin has shown little sign of ending that support through multiple rounds of international talks.
"I'm not confident that we can trust the Russians or Vladimir Putin," Obama said. "Which is why we have to test whether or not we can get an actual cessation of hostilities."
The US hopes renewing a failed ceasefire would prevent a bloodbath in Aleppo, allow humanitarian aid missions to resume and open the door for negotiations that would end the war and turn the focus to defeating Daesh [Arabic acronym for "ISIS"/ "ISIL"].
The White House is betting that Putin's preoccupation with Russia's position on the world stage could lead to a rethink before he travels to the G20 in China and UN General Assembly in New York next month.
If the renewed ceasefire does not stick, Obama will hold Russia accountable and "will have shown itself very clearly to be an irresponsible actor on the world stage ... and will have to answer to that on the international stage".
Obama added, "Russia's direct involvement in these actions over the last several weeks raises very serious questions about their commitment."
But it is not just Russia's reputation that is on the line in Syria.
As the country has fallen apart, Daesh, al-Qaeda affiliated groups and other assorted Takfiris had flourished and a refugee crisis has destabilized the region and Europe.
Obama's political foes have accused his policies of leading to the growth of Daesh into a group that now carries out attacks in the US and Europe with regularity.
On Thursday he admitted that Syria had been one of the most testing issues of his presidency, which will end in January.
"I've been wrestling with this thing now for a lot of years," he said. "I am pretty confident that a big chunk of my gray hair comes out of my Syria meetings."
"There is not a meeting that I do not end by saying is there something else that we could be doing that we haven't thought of? Is there a plan 'F,' 'G,' 'H,' that we think would lead to a resolution of this issue."
After meeting with advisers at the Pentagon, Obama said Daesh would "inevitably" be crushed and said the US-led coalition would continue to aggressively target the Takfiris "across every front."
But "the decline of ‘ISIL' in Syria and Iraq appears to be causing it to shift to tactics that we've seen before -- an even greater emphasis on encouraging high-profile terrorist attacks, including in the United States," Obama warned.
The Takfiris swept across vast parts of northern Syria and Iraq in 2014, leaving a trail of human butchery and horrific destruction in their wake.
Despite the massive effort, the Takfiris still hold Mosul -- Iraq's second-largest city -- and the Syrian city of Raqa.
Earlier this week Obama announced a new front in the war, ordering airstrikes against Daesh militants' positions in Sirte, Libya.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team