Reports that US and Russian airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria might have been coordinated were quickly and loudly denied by Pentagon officials this morning, as they insist no such cooperation is taking place at all. White House officials, however, suggested they are open to future such cooperation.
President Trump has talked up the idea of direct cooperation with Russia in fighting against ISIS since before the election, with signs that US backing of rebel factions was going to be eliminated in favor of focusing on the war against ISIS.
Russian officials claimed the extent of the “coordination” so far was very limited, only amounting to trading targeting information about the city of al-Bab, which Turkey is trying to conquer and which both Russia and the US are launching airstrikes against. The Pentagon insisted even this claim was Russian propaganda.
There are legal questions surrounding any direct cooperation with Russia in Syria, as the NDAA passed in 2014 actually forbade the Pentagon from working with Russia at all, because of the civil war in East Ukraine. It’s not clear the extent to which this rule will actually be enforced, however, with the Trump Administration very keen at improving ties with Russia and also eager to escalate attacks on ISIS.
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