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Landis: Putin, Obama Do Have Common Interests To Discuss In UN Meeting

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his dacha outside Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2009.
Pete Souza
The White House
President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his dacha outside Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2009.

Next week President Obama plans to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the United Nations to discuss efforts and support in Syria. Russia has been backing the Syrian administration of Bashar al-Assad since the civil war began more than four years ago – sending planes, tanks and troops to bolster Bashar al-Assad’s government and tenuous hold on power in the troubled country. But the rise of Islamic State militants has created even more questions about who to stand behind in the Middle East.

“They’re [Russia] taking advantage of American confusion right now, and trying to set the agenda for Syria,” says Joshua Landis, the author of the blog Syria Comment and the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “The U.S. has pursued at least three different policies to try to build up moderate rebels to fight ISIS and Assad. All of those have failed spectacularly.”

Landis says the U.S. has no partners in Syria, and issues with the three major powers – ISIS, the Assad regime, and the rebel coalition Jaysh al-Fatah, which is sympathetic to al-Qaeda.

“Russia is saying, 'Look, support my guy, Assad. We need to all go in together, stop ISIS, support the government of Syria to take it over.' Then the refugees will stop, theoretically, is his argument.” Landis said.

But working with Russia won’t be easy, since the U.S. has been isolating Russia over their actions in Ukraine and accepting former security analyst Edward Snowden who leaked thousands of National Security Agency intelligence files .

“We have a common interest, which is ISIS, and that’s what he’s [Putin] trying to use to take the floodlight off of Ukraine, shift it over to Syria,” Landis said. “We do have some common goals.”

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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