National Security

House Dems Urge Obama to Reopen Negotiations With Russia Over Syria Despite Failed Ceasefire


House Democrats called on the Obama administration Tuesday to continue diplomatic negotiations aimed at ending the Syrian civil war despite the recently failed effort with Russia.

Nearly 60 Democratic members signed a letter to President Obama urging him to reopen communication channels with Moscow to implement another ceasefire deal in the war-torn region as Pentagon officials and others push for escalated military intervention, Politico reported.

"There is simply no realistic alternative to a diplomatic and political resolution of the Syrian civil war that takes into account the interests of Syria’s diverse communities as well as the interests of all nations in a peaceful, stable Middle East," the lawmakers wrote.

The lead signatories of the letter were Democratic Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), Seth Moulton (Mass.), and Tim Walz (Minn.), who all served in the military.

The plea came a day after Russian and Syrian military forces continued their deadly bombing campaign in the rebel-held city of Aleppo. Senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter, have opposed negotiating with Russia, arguing the Kremlin cannot be trusted to honor any truce with the U.S.

More than 50 U.S. diplomats called on Obama in June to authorize military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to weaken the regime and protect civilians, but he has shown no signs of changing course before his presidency comes to an end in January.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the U.S. would continue pursuing negotiations with Russia despite the failure earlier this month of a week-long ceasefire.

Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, told reporters Monday the administration was still focused on a "political solution."

Kerry’s reliance on diplomatic resolutions without actions to back them up has drawn ire from Republicans. Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Rep. Ed Royce (R. Calif.), who chair the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, expressed doubts that the administration would be able to clinch a lasting truce with the Russians or the Syrians.

Corker said last week the failure of the ceasefire "was always to be the outcome of negotiations since Russia has known all along that there was nothing to back up empty words from the United States."

Royce and other GOP lawmakers have urged Obama to impose sanctions on Russia for aiding Assad.

"There is no hope for diplomacy as long as Assad sees a military path to victory," Royce told Politico on Tuesday. "Imposing stiff sanctions on Assad’s war machine and its enablers will allow us to push for peace from a position of strength."