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To the utter bemusement of the Russians, just four days after appearing to agree to withdraw all the Jihadis from Aleppo, the US has backtracked on its agreement.
Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comments could not be more scathing
“They have withdrawn their document and have a new one. Our initial impression is that this new document backtracks, and is an attempt to buy time for the militants, allow them to catch their breath and resupply. The same thing happened with our agreement of September 9 (NB: Lavrov is here referring to the Kerry-Lavrov agreement – AM). The thing that the Americans offered on paper and what we backed is now somehow not OK for them. It’s difficult to understand who makes decisions there, but apparently there are plenty of those who want to undermine the authority and practical steps by John Kerry.”
In other words the divisions within the Obama administration – even now in the last weeks of its life – are unresolved. It still cannot decide between the realists led by US Secretary of State Kerry, who want to save the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo by withdrawing them from the city, and the hardliners of whom probably the most important is US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.
Lavrov spoke about these divisions even before the Kerry-Lavrov agreement was signed in September. To get a sense of his exasperation with Kerry’s inability to come to an agreement that will stick, consider his quite comments to the media on 10th September 2016, as the Obama administration agonised for hours over whether or not to sign off to the Kerry-Lavrov agreement. These are so extraordinary, and convey Lavrov’s frustrations so well, that they deserve to be reproduced in full
“Sergey Lavrov: How are you? Exhausted?
Sergey Lavrov: Me too.
Question: But heartened?
Sergey Lavrov: It’s a very tough vertical of power in the democratic system of the US.
Question: It is. So what is happening? Aren’t you getting responses from the White House?
Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know. We are thinking of possible meeting next week. What do you think? Is it worth it?
Question: I bet that you, guys, want to get home too. What’s holding it up? Is it the timing or cooperation?
Sergey Lavrov: I don’t know. It takes 5 hours for our friends to check with Washington. I’m sorry for you.
Question: We are sorry for us too.
Question: Has Russia cleared whatever document you’ve agreed to? Your capital is on board with whatever this piece of paper you’ve agreed to?
Sergey Lavrov: You have an excellent crystal ball!
Question: Does it mean “Yes”?
Question: Where are you on the text?
Sergey Lavrov: We are there. I don’t know where our friends are. But I believe it’s important for them to check with Washington. That’s why I apologise for the delay. We cannot help it.
Question: Is the agreement being finalised than? Have you and Secretary Kerry finalised the agreement or set of proposals? What is it exactly?
Sergey Lavrov: I think everyone except you understood what I said.
Question: Well, spell it out for unintelligible.
Sergey Lavrov: No. I believe it’s not important, it’s important to make sure that you are waiting for us, because we want you to know the truth.
Question: Which is what?
Sergey Lavrov: Which is going to be announced very soon, I hope. Because I hope before Washington goes to sleep we can get some news. My appeal to you is to be patient.
Question: We weren’t be in this job if we were not patient.
Sergey Lavrov: Same with me.”
(bold italics added)
Lavrov’s comment about the “vertical of power” in Washington were bitterly ironic, since the “vertical of power” is how neocon analysts like to describe the political structure in Russia.
In reality Russia’s power structure is carefully structured so that Lavrov at all times knows what sort of agreement his government will accept, whereas the power structure in Washington under the Obama administration has become so chaotic that no agreement Kerry makes has much chance of surviving even if it is eventually signed off.
The sequel to Lavrov’s comments to the media on 10th September 2016 was that after many more hours of discussion the Obama administration did eventually sign off the Kerry-Lavrov agreement. However the hardliners in Washington immediately undermined it, launching an air attack on Syrian troops defending the eastern desert city of Deir Ezzor from ISIS, and launching a relentless media campaign against Russia even as the US’s Jihadi proxies in Syria refused to abide by it.
None of this of course ever gets reported in the Western media, just as Kerry’s proposal of four days ago to withdraw the Jihadis from eastern Aleppo has not been reported.
The reality is that the military situation in Aleppo is now such that the total military defeat and suppression of the Jihadis in their pocket in eastern Aleppo is now just days or at most weeks away. It is highly debatable whether the diplomacy can now catch up with the events on the ground.
Since the final defeat of the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo is now just a matter of time, and since this must be obvious to everyone, it seems the hardliners in the US would rather see them die than come to an agreement with Russia that might save their lives – and the lives of any civilians who are trapped in eastern Aleppo with them.
Anyone at all impressed by the predictable Western media storm when the Jihadi pocket in eastern Aleppo approaches its final collapse should bear this fact in mind, and remember who actually is prolonging the fighting in Aleppo and the deaths it causes.