Obama offers to work with Russia against ISIS under one condition

Nov 18, 2015 12:48 PM by CBS News

The Russian prime minister said that the best way to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is to unite with the West, and Russia is already coordinating airstrikes with France.

While President Obama seems to agree, he said there is a catch: Russia must first help end the Syrian war. Just days after Russia launched its first significant strikes against the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, President Obama extended an offer.

"If we get a better understanding with Russia about the process for bringing an end to the Syrian civil war, that obviously opens up more opportunities for coordination with respect to ISIL," Mr. Obama said, using another acronym for ISIS.

The strikes were a major shift. Russia spent weeks bombing Syrian rebels - some backed by the U.S. - fighting to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.

"It may be that now having seen ISIL take down one of their airliners in a horrific accident that reorientation continues," said the president.

Now, Mr. Obama is relying on Vladimir Putin to help broker a ceasefire in Syria, which would eliminate an ISIS safe haven.

Kremlin analysts say Putin may simply be seizing an opportunity to repair frayed relations with the West.

"I think that the Paris bombing has produced a short-term kumbaya with Mr. Putin. I don't think it's gonna last, I don't think Obama or Putin trust each other, but they need each other right now," said Eurasia Group Chairman Cliff Kupchan.

One of the coalition's most pressing needs is intelligence sharing to track foreign fighters and target ISIS leaders.

Consolidating resources is key, says Mr. Obama's former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

"Air attacks are great, but, at the same, if you don't have good targets on the ground, it doesn't do much in terms of destabilizing the enemy," said Panetta.

Coordination may increase after the French president travels to both Moscow and Washington next week. But it is clear that tensions remain. On Wednesday, Russia's top diplomat compared the U.S. reluctance to send ground troops to a cat who wants to eat a fish but refuses to get its feet wet.


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