(Reuters) Skeptics in the U.S. government, European allies in the anti-ISIL coalition and the main Syrian opposition, distrustful of Russia’s intentions, are questioning Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest proposal for closer U.S.-Russian cooperation against extremist groups in Syria.
Several U.S. military and intelligence officials called the plan naive, and said Kerry risks falling into a trap that Russian President Vladimir Putin has laid to discredit the United States with moderate rebel groups and drive some of their fighters into the arms of ISIL and other extremist groups.
Some European members of the coalition against ISIL forces have expressed concern about sharing intelligence with Russia, which they say has been an untrustworthy partner in Syria.
The current proposal, which Kerry hopes to conclude within weeks, envisions ways in which Washington and Moscow would share intelligence to coordinate air strikes against the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and prohibit the Syrian air force from attacking moderate rebel groups.
Kerry’s State Department and White House allies say the plan is the best chance to limit the fighting that is driving thousands of Syrians, mixed with some trained ISIL fighters, into exile in Europe and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching tens of thousands more, as well as preserving a political track.
In the end, according to two officials who support Kerry’s efforts, there is no alternative to working with the Russians.