CIA Director Brennan: Paris Attacks Should Bring U.S. and Russia Closer

 John Brennan pauses while taking questions at the Global Security Forum Monday. John Brennan pauses while taking questions at the Global Security Forum Monday. Andrew Harnik/AP

For years, gov­ern­ments in the Per­sian Gulf and the West alike, while dis­agree­ing on much, have been in ac­cord on one big thing—Syr­i­an lead­er Bashar al-As­sad is among the most hein­ous forces on the plan­et and has to go. But after the Is­lam­ic State at­tack on Par­is, he im­prob­ably seems much less odi­ous and most likely now has a life­line to con­tin­ued power.

Rus­sia’s Vladi­mir Putin, too, has been one of the West’s lead­ing vil­lains, par­tic­u­lar since send­ing his troops in­to Ukraine, an­nex­ing Crimea, and destabil­iz­ing the east­ern part of his neigh­bor­ing coun­try. Sus­pi­cious of Putin and his motives, the West has ig­nored his en­treat­ies for a joint Syr­i­an strategy, one that from his own side has meant an air cam­paign de­signed to bol­ster As­sad’s hold on power.

But in the wake of the Novem­ber 13 Par­is at­tack, Ukraine has ab­ruptly van­ished in­to the back­ground, and the West, if not pre­cisely em­bra­cing Putin him­self, will em­brace him as a part­ner in Syr­ia.

Pres­id­ent Barack Obama signaled this shift in a very pub­lic ap­pear­ance with Putin on Novem­ber 15, ahead of a G-20 sum­mit in Tur­key. CIA Dir­ect­or John Bren­nan today ad­ded to the pic­ture of Putin com­ing in from the cold in a speech in Wash­ing­ton.

Par­is was the last of three ma­jor strikes in which the Is­lam­ic State claimed re­spons­ib­il­ity—the first was the Oc­to­ber 31 down­ing of a Rus­si­an air­liner, killing 224 people; the second was a pair of Beirut sui­cide bomb­ings on Novem­ber 12 in which 43 died. As a whole, the Is­lam­ic State seemed to be send­ing a mes­sage that it can and will at­tack any­where.

But the as­sault on the French cap­it­al has seemed par­tic­u­larly po­tent be­cause of Par­is’s stature as a primary West­ern city and, go­ing back to the 18th cen­tury, a sym­bol of West­ern ideals along­side an­cient Greece and the Amer­ic­an re­volu­tion. At least ini­tially, the at­tack has claimed the status of a great in­flec­tion point that, like 9/11, in­stantly shifts geo­pol­it­ics.

It’s yet to be seen wheth­er it as­sumes grander scale in glob­al geo­strategy and the pop­u­lar ima­gin­a­tion, like Pearl Har­bor, or Hitler’s in­va­sion of the So­viet Uni­on. But look now for start­lingly high-pro­file unity among formerly tense rivals and en­emies.

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