Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria: 'Lunacy' to Think Our Interests Align With Russia's and Iraq's

By Susan Jones | October 5, 2015 | 7:52 AM EDT

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

( - The Russians moved into Syria to prop up the Assad regime, not to eradicate ISIS, Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, told "Fox News Sunday."

"For us to think for a moment that Russia and Iran are aligned with our interests in the region, that is lunacy. The pattern of air strikes points it out. They are attacking the forces we're supporting. They don't care about Islamic State. So our interests and theirs are completely misaligned. Yet they are moving forward and we're not moving at all."

"There are things we could do," Crocker insisted. "We could employ -- impose a no-fly zone. We could make a dramatic step on refugees. We could engage diplomatically and politically. That's the big absence right now.

"Send John Kerry to Baghdad and have him sit there working the political problems that underlie the weaknesses of the Iraqi military. Those are political problems, we can make a difference, but we have to engage to do it."

Crocker said a no-fly zone would "change the dynamics" in Syria. "This would be a no-fly zone to stop Assad's hideous barrel bombing of his own people," he explained.

On Friday, President Obama told reporters, "The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict."

Obama said he doesn't want to turn the situation into a "proxy war" between the U.S. and Russia. "That would be bad strategy on our part. This is not some, you know, superpower chessboard contest."

Host Chris Wallace asked Crocker on Sunday if enforcing a no-fly zone would boost the chances of a superpower confrontation:

"I wish we had established that no-fly zone before the Russians came in," Ryan responded. "That might have dissuaded them from doing it. I still think we should step up to this. A no-fly zone, as I understand it, can be forced not with manned aircraft necessarily, but with offshore missiles, and I think we should just tell the Russians we're going to do it, and then do it.

"That is not an end in and of itself, but it could change the political dynamics to make the Russians, the Iranians, and their client, Bashar al-Assad, realize that they are going to have to negotiate a settlement that is going to involve him leaving Syria."

Sen. John McCain said the conflict already is a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia.

"Of course it is," McCain told CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper.

He accused Russia of "treating the United States with disdain and contempt. And, of course, they are hitting the Free Syrian Army enclaves and places which have had some success. This is the CIA-run operations. And they want to take them out.

"What Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad want to do is provide us with the choice between ISIS and Bashar Assad, that -- but -- and in order to do that, you take out the Free Syrian Army..."

McCain said the strategy needs to be, "Stop (Assad's) barrel bombing, establish a no-fly zone, arm the Kurds, get some forward air controllers at work there, build up the Free Syrian Army again.

"And it's not too late," he added.

"We -- this flood of refugees is a direct result of our failed policy. It was a year ago the president said our goal was degrade and destroy ISIS. We have made no progress there, and, of course, we now see Vladimir Putin inserting himself into the Middle East in a way they have -- that Russia has not been since Anwar Sadat threw the Russians out in 1973."

"He's maintaining his base and he's now dictating the pace of events in Syria, which is, of course, an abdication of American leadership."

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