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The Tug of War for Syria: Can the West and Russia Cooperate on Syria?
The brutality of Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, and the unprecedented threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has divided the international community over how to address the Syrian civil war. Russian and Western interests in Syria are largely incompatible. Russian national interests have lead to Moscow’s steadfast support of the Assad regime, while Western interests have attempted to facilitate Assad’s removal. Russia recently began airstrikes in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime, targeting moderate Syrian rebel forces, despite citing a directive to dismantle the ISIS threat. The United States and Russia now share the same airspace on different sides of the Syrian civil war, threatening confrontation. The fundamental differences in strategic interests of Russia and the West have prevented cooperative international action in Syria. Recent developments suggest a likely continuation of uncooperative action.