US, Russia Resume High-Level Face-to-Face Diplomacy on Syria War
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry headed into another round of talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, the American diplomats accompanying Kerry sought to downplay expectations of an imminent deal on a Syrian cease-fire.
“We can’t guarantee in any way we are on the cusp of finality,” said one U.S. official.
But Kerry, who spoke by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov at least four times Wednesday and Thursday, was optimistic enough to fly back to Switzerland for what is expected to be no more than a single day of negotiations.
The sticking points, for days, have been described by U.S. officials as “technical matters.” A key one, it has been revealed, involves ensuring “there will not be a siege of Aleppo,” according to a second State Department official who spoke to reporters aboard Kerry’s plane. “It’s not simply ’stop shooting,’” he added, explaining that overall the larger goal remains clearing the way for a transition stage to new leadership in Syria after a cease-fire holds.
There is considerable skepticism that a nationwide, sustainable cease-fire - the immediate goals as it has been repeatedly characterized by State Department officials - can hold for any period of time.
Syria is fractured after five years of war. There are numerous client forces of questionable allegiance and discipline pitted against each other, in addition to the so-called Islamic State group, which is beholden to no one.
Russia wants to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stay in power while moderate opposition forces and Turkey insist there can be no transition deal that retains him for any period of time.
The United States long-held stance is that the Syrian leader, for his brutal acts, cannot lead any future government.
Trump, Clinton Viciously Attack Each Other on National Security
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton unleashed some of their harshest criticisms about each other to date, a day after a televised forum on national security put each under a strong spotlight.
Appearing at a school in Cleveland, Ohio, Trump said Clinton's performance Wednesday night was more evidence she is unfit to be commander-in-chief. Trump said Clinton continues to refuse to take responsibility for her "failed" Middle East policies as secretary of state.
He called Clinton "trigger happy" in a race to invade countries and topple regimes, resulting in "ruin and death" in Libya, Iraq, and Syria.
When she was secretary, Clinton ran a criminal enterprise, Trump asserted, by granting favors to donors to the Clinton Foundation charity, and accused her of smashing telephones with hammers to hide evidence from investigators.
Trump intimated that those who back Clinton for president are "suckers."
Clinton told a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina that Trump's comment that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "far more" of a leader than President Barack Obama "shocked her."
"That is not just unpatriotic, it's not just insulting to the office and to the man who holds the office. It is scary, it is dangerous," she said.
Clinton also derided Trump's so-called "secret plan" to defeat Islamic State. She says it is a secret because he has no plan. She also took Trump to task for commenting in public Wednesday night on a confidential national security briefing given to presidential candidates.