The moral of this story is: don’t send Barack Obama to negotiate your operational modus vivendi with Russia in a combat zone.
On the first day of Russian air strikes in Syria, Russia surprised the U.S. by sending a general officer to the American embassy in Baghdad to issue a “demarche,” or a unilateral demand or statement of intent. The general – who is stationed with the new joint intelligence command center set up in Baghdad by Russia, Iran, Syria, and Iraq – said Russia would be conducting strikes, and he “requested” that U.S. forces remain clear of the Russian operating area. (See video.)
Pentagon officials point out that that’s not what anyone meant by proposing to coordinate with Russian forces in Syria.
According to a U.S. senior official, Presidents Obama and Putin agreed on a process to “deconflict” military operations. The Russians on Wednesday “bypassed that process,” the official said.
“That’s not how responsible nations do business,” the official said.
The development came after Pentagon officials, in a development first reported by Fox News, brushed aside an official request, or “demarche,” from Russia to clear air space over northern Syria, where Moscow said it intended to conduct airstrikes against ISIS on behalf of Assad, according to sources who spoke to Fox News. The request was made in a heated discussion between a Russian three-star general and U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Baghdad, sources said.
“If you have forces in the area we request they leave,” said the general, who used the word “please” in the contentious encounter.
U.S. officials said the request was not honored.