How to Work With Russia in Syria

What Cooperation Would Look Like

A Kurdish refugee from the Syrian town of Kobani shows victory sign as a rainbow forms over the camp in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, October 16, 2014. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

It’s hard to fight a war when one’s allies can’t agree on an enemy. And that is exactly the situation the United States has faced in Syria. As Washington has tried to build a coalition for the fight, it has had to manage allies in the Gulf that want to fight Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad but not radical Islamists. It has had to deal with Turkey, which stands against Assad and radical Islamists, but mostly just wants to take on the Kurds. Another U.S. ally, Israel, watches the swirling entanglement of enemies with uncertainty, and seems ready to intervene if major threats materialize. And finally Germany wants to arm the Kurds, and U.S. Special Forces have already partnered with them. In all this confusion, it isn’t surprising that the coalition’s results against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also called ISIS) have been lackluster.


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