Confusion reigned Monday over Syria's new cease-fire as Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States and Russia could permit President Bashar Assad's government to launch new airstrikes against al-Qaida-linked militants. The State Department quickly reversed itself.
The United States and Russia early Saturday announced a breakthrough agreement on Syria that foresees a nationwide cease-fire starting on Monday, followed a week later by an unexpected new military partnership targeting the Islamic State and al-Qaida as well as the establishment of new limits on President Bashar Assad's forces.
The U.S. military picture in Syria is getting more chaotic and complicated by the day, putting new strains on the Obama administration's strategy of partnering with a hodgepodge of local fighters against the Islamic State group without getting pulled deeper into Syria's civil war or rupturing relations with Turkey.
Frustrated by months of failure in Syria, the Obama administration is taking what might be its final offer to Moscow: Enhanced intelligence and military cooperation against the Islamic State and other extremist groups if Syria's Russian-backed president Bashar Assad upholds a ceasefire with U.S.-supported rebel groups and starts a political transition.
Dozens of State Department employees have endorsed an internal document that advocates U.S. military action to pressure Syria's government into accepting a cease-fire and engaging in peace talks, officials said Thursday. The position is at odds with U.S. policy.