Obama Proposal Would Join Russian, U.S. Military Forces in Syria Air Campaign

Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama / AP

The Obama administration is offering to coordinate military operations with Russia inside Syria, calling for joint bombing operations and a new command-and-control headquarters in a leaked proposal that would radically change America’s role in the war-torn country.

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Moscow on Thursday to negotiate potential military coordination with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The eight-page proposal, published Wednesday by the Washington Post, would expand intelligence sharing between the U.S. and Russia so the two nations can cooperate in targeting and bombing efforts against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and the Islamic State.

The suggested "Joint Operation Group," composed of military officers, intelligence officials, and subject-matter experts from the two countries, would be based near Amman, Jordan.

The Washington Post reported:

The United States and Russia would establish separate headquarters at the new operation and a shared coordination office. Each side would be required to deploy at that location "senior national representatives," intelligence personnel, subject-matter experts, and operations personnel "with expertise in national procedures for strike planning, targeting, weaponeering, operational law, and other functions." Both countries would deploy support staff as well, "to manage logistics, force protection, communications, and other requirements."

The proposed military command-and-control headquarters would be used to coordinate the air campaign and would house both U.S. and Russian military officials.

Putin has long sought U.S. military collaboration against Jabhat al-Nusra. The group is primarily attacking the Assad regime, which is allied with the Kremlin.

Pentagon officials opposed to the plan predicted that Moscow would use the agreement to strengthen Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime while weakening Syria’s rebel fighters, many of whom are backed by U.S. forces.

The White House hedged on speculation of the proposal Thursday, and it remains unclear whether Putin will accept the agreement.

"At present, the United States is not conducting or coordinating military operations with Russia," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. "I know there’s some speculation that an agreement may be reached to do so, but it’s not clear that that will happen."