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Is a Mexican Standoff Imminent in Syria?

Ongoing unrest in Syria could lead to a Mexican-style standoff between the U.S. and Russia. (Image: Martin SoulStealer/flickr)
Ongoing unrest in Syria could lead to a Mexican-style standoff between the U.S. and Russia. (Image: Martin SoulStealer/flickr)

Relations between Russia, and the United states have not been very stable lately — especially when it comes to Syria, and military interventions. It seems that things have changed with a new mutual interest of fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

This comes as a relief to many who expected the two nations would engage in military actions against one another just a few days ago. Still, things have gotten increasingly confusing when it comes to who is actually on whose side in Syria.

It may seem baffling that not long ago the U.S. stance on the Assad government in Syria was such that the U.S. was fueling anti-government rebels, who had attempted to overthrow Assad. In August 2015, U.S. jets reportedly extended their mission to “defend favored rebels in Syria against attack” by the Assad regime, Bloomberg reported.

Now talks on both sides between Russia, and the Obama legislative show hopes of a compromise; both sides are willing to coordinate joint military efforts against the IS which does not only pose a threat to the “Assad government” but also to all mutual interests the western allies invested in Syria over the past years.

Even though the common ground now found between Moscow, and Washington seems like breaking news, as the following report from January 2015 shows, there have been multiple previous attempts.

Russia offers to host meeting between Syrian government, and opposition:

To  many skeptics who question the rationale of geo-political decisions being made recently, the events happening in Syria look like a Mexican Standoff in its making. While everyone in Syria is aimed at abolishing IS, they are also intent on fighting one another.

On Wednesday, September 9th in 2015, Australia apparently declared an unofficial war on Syria. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made the announcement, according to the Russian Insider, which also said Australia was aiding rebels fighting against the Assad government.

Meanwhile, statements from the Economist reveal, “Assad who now controls less than 15 per cent of his country […] is under pressure from a variety of rebel groups, including Islamic State. Further more […] Australia launched its first air strikes inside Syria against IS, and France said it will soon start air strikes there to aid moderate forces that are opposed both to IS, and the government (Assad).”

In 2012, France also reportedly considered arming the Syrian rebels, which it had then recognized as the “newly formed Syrian rebel coalition,” according to the New York Times.

Speculation is rising there may be confrontations between foreign intervening troops acting within Syria.

To the contrary of such beliefs, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently held talks with Moscow on behalf of the Obama administration. The two partitions had an aim of coordinating their strategical interventions in the “war zone,” and “avoid accidental escalation of one of the world’s most volatile conflicts,” the New York Times said.

With talks between two previously opposing sides going on, it seems plausible that any hope of transparency is not in vain.

Bloomberg quoted State Department spokesman Mark Toner saying: “The Obama administration’s decision to renew top-level defense contacts with Moscow, which were cut off over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, reflects an effort to ‘get clarity on what Russia’s intentions are, what they intend to do’ in Syria.”

For those looking into the opaque fish bowl of Syria, the muddy water seems like a haze of confusion, and uncertainty about what everyone’s true intentions in Syria actually are. Even with the influx of news wires about talks between Russia, and the U.S. the question still rings in the minds of the muddled: “Who is friend, and who is foe?”

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