1. Mann: You know the Russian position is an interesting one and it has gained attraction, it has gained Power and dominance as we see clearly on the military battlefield in Syria, but also politically because it points, I think, objectively to an incoherence here in Washington that even supporters of the Obama Administration, among Democrats especially, see a real incoherence in this determination, this rhetorical determination to fight Terrorism but then to try to pick out who’s a Good terrorist and who’s a Bad terrorist. It’s something that is really, I think, riddling the presidential Campaign here and putting People that otherwise would normally be diametrically opposed on political issues, be they Foreign Policy or Domestic, on one side which points to an incoherence in the current Administration’s policy on Syria.
2. Mann: It was a strategic mistake to begin with. We knew that invading Iraq was a disaster. Invading Iraq not only lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of People but it essentially, in a way, strategically gave influence over Iraq to Iran. The military Intervention in Syria similarly was a disaster strategically. It gave over Libya to Chaos and led to this enormous refugee problem or contributed to it significantly. Similarly our Invasion of Afghanistan back in 2001 was a strategic disaster. So the decision here, very quickly, very just off-the-cuff, to call for the Overthrow of the Syrian Government was something that was reckless to begin with. I think increasingly People in Washington understand that. They understand that there is not a military Victory to be had that the United States could claim, which is why the United States keeps coming back to the diplomatic process with Russia as much as People really hate it here in Washington. They find it embarrassing, they find it a Perception of weakness of the Obama Administration, they find it distasteful, but there is no other way out of what otherwise will be an enormous strategic embarrassment for the United States. There will continue to be, I think, these kind of Negociations. It’s important, I think, for all the actors involved to spare the Lives of thousands of more Syrians, to get serious about a negotiated settlement and not to be focused on whether a fighter is moderate or not. It’s really an oxymoron to call a fighter “moderate” or terrorist “extreme.” They’re a fighter. Fighters fight because they’re Good at Killing, not because they’re Good at Democracy.
3. Mann: Absolutely. The issue of moderate fighters versus terrorist fighters or extreme fighters is really farcical in a way. As I said, there really is not a lot of difference. I don’t say that to say that the Russian position is correct, I say that as a statement of fact. It’s almost impossible to distinguish between these fighters and that’s why you see the incoherence in US policy on this point. I don’t think the United States is intentionally trying to stop a Ceasefire or to stop the Bloodshed in Syria, it’s just an enormous policy problem of Washington’s own making, but it’s still an enormous policy problem here that I think will only be resolved in a sense by the next President. You could not have a more stark choice before the American People between a President Clinton and a President Trump. They are diametrically opposed in terms of how to work with Russia.
I think the German Foreign Minister has put his finger on a critically important issue for the World, which in part will be decided by the presidential race here, which is the future of US-Russian Relations. They have never been this bad, including during the Cold War. During the Cold War the United States recognised Russian Interests in Syria and of course in the former Soviet Space. Today the United States does not. And whether Russia is willing and capable of confronting the United States on this issue could really be one of the most momentous issues facing the World today. In part, it will be decided by what the next President of the United States wants to do vis-à-vis Russia. And over Syria.