On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking loudly and carrying a small stick, as per usual, threatened Russia that the United States would terminate coordination with Russia in confronting Islamic State unless the Russians stop bombing the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Kerry spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, State Department John Kirby said in a statement, adding that Kerry intoned, “The United States is making preparations to suspend U.S.-Russia bilateral engagement on Syria, including on the establishment of the Joint Implementation Center, unless Russia takes immediate steps to end the assault on Aleppo and restore the cessation of hostilities.” Kirby added, “Secretary Kerry expressed grave concern over the deteriorating situation in Syria, particularly for continued Russian and Syrian regime attacks on hospitals, the water supply network, and other civilian infrastructure in Aleppo. The Secretary made clear the United States and its partners hold Russia responsible for this situation, including the use of incendiary and bunker buster bombs in an urban environment, a drastic escalation that puts civilians at great risk.”
A tenuous cease-fire had been effected earlier this month between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian rebels; if that cease-fire was maintained, the U.S. and Russia had planned to coordinate their efforts against Islamic State.
Kirby continued: “The Secretary stressed that the burden remains on Russia to stop this assault and allow humanitarian access to Aleppo and other areas in need. He informed the foreign minister that the United States is making preparations to suspend U.S.-Russia bilateral engagement on Syria … unless Russia takes immediate steps to end the assault on Aleppo and restore the cessation of hostilities.”
On Wednesday, Russia bombed insurgent-held areas of eastern Aleppo for the sixth consecutive day.
Last week, Kerry and Lavrov fought at the U.N.; Lavrov said the United States had failed to influence moderate Syrian opposition groups to leave their union with the Nusra Front, an offshoot of Al Qaeda. Kerry argued that Russian and Syrian militaries were culpable for the continuing violence.
When Kirby was queried as to what would happen if Russia ignores the Obama Administration’s threat, he answered, “Extremist groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria, to expand their operations, which will include — no question — attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities. And Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags.”
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham derided Kerry’s worthless threat: they released a statement that read, “No more lakeside tête-à-têtes at five-star hotels in Geneva. We can only imagine that having heard the news, Vladimir Putin has called off his bear hunt and is rushing back to the Kremlin to call off Russian air strikes on hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid convoys around Aleppo.”