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US should test Russia on Islamic State

With the complicated regional dynamics of the Syrian war, the US could benefit from Russian assistance.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2ndR) at the start of a meeting at the World Conference Center in Bonn, Germany February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/POOL - RTSYYRN

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Feb. 16 that while the US is “not in a position right now to collaborate on a military level” with Russia, “our political leaders will engage and try to find common ground or a way forward.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meeting on the same day with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, added that “the United States will consider working with Russia where we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people.”

This is a worthy approach. The Islamic State (IS) poses a long-term insurgency and terrorism threat to Russia and the West, even as the territory it controls is diminishing. If the Trump administration is considering sending US ground forces to Syria to enforce safe zones or help take Raqqa, IS’ capital in Syria, this would represent a significant military escalation. Given the murky and complicated regional dynamics of the Syrian war, the US might benefit from a Russian assist.

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