New violence in Syria threatens cease-fire, as U.S. and Russia blame each other

The Washington Post reports: A U.S.-Russian cease-fire deal for Syria was on the brink of collapse Sunday after a week of mishaps and setbacks that exposed the fragility of the plan.

The cease-fire is premised on a series of trust-building exercises that were intended to culminate Monday in the launch of preparations between the United States and Russia for joint airstrikes against terrorist groups in Syria.

Instead, the violence ticked up Sunday, promised deliveries of aid failed to materialize and an errant strike Saturday by the U.S.-led coalition that killed dozens of Syrian government soldiers exposed the deficit of trust between the two powers.

Which countries were involved in the attack, which Russia said killed 62 Syrian soldiers, is unclear. The U.S.-led coalition comprises 67 countries, more than a dozen of which carry out airstrikes against the militants.

The Australian Defense Ministry, which is among those contributing to the effort, acknowledged in a statement Sunday that its warplanes had participated in a strike Saturday in Deir al-Zour, the eastern Syrian city where the attack occurred, on a front line between the Syrian army and the Islamic State that has changed hands many times.

The strike sent tensions soaring between Moscow and Washington, the chief sponsors of the truce, casting further into doubt the likelihood that they will be able to work together to end Syria’s war.

Russia sustained its verbal assaults on the United States on Sunday, with a Foreign Ministry statement accusing the pilots who carried out the strikes of acting “on the boundary between criminal negligence and connivance with Islamic State terrorists.” [Continue reading…]

As conspiracy theorizing Russia-watchers apply their selective cynicism — always suspicious of claims coming out of Washington, while much more receptive to statements from the Kremlin — no doubt quite a few will be willing to believe that the U.S. is indeed in cahoots with ISIS. Evidence and logic is of little use in dispelling these suspicions when it is being voiced by anyone who can be tarred with association with the establishment. Debunking is only effective when the debunkers are sufficiently trusted.

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