UNITED NATIONS -- Russia plans to soon introduce a United Nations Security Council resolution that would aim to reshape the global fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced here on Monday.
The current U.S.-led approach to defeating the Islamic State group, or ISIS, is flawed because it does not support the government of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Putin argued. He said his country would use its present position as president of the Security Council to first hold a meeting to analyze threats in the Middle East and then try to bring together all forces that are opposed to extremists.
"We hope that the international community will be able to develop a comprehensive strategy of political stabilization as well as social and economic recovery of the Middle East," Putin said.
But the kind of Assad-friendly strategy that the Russian leader is likely to propose may only worsen the situation in Syria, other top leaders and observers of the conflict say.
Figures like French President Francois Hollande argue that by working with the Syrian regime, the world community would drive more Sunni Syrians -- who form the majority of the country and are largely opposed to Assad -- into the arms of extremist elements like ISIS and the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.
They also note that cooperation with a leader accused of repeatedly using chemical weapons on his own people -- not to mention subjecting thousands of them to torture, starvation and constant bombardment -- is unlikely to prove popular in the Muslim world.
Putin rooted his pitch in history, comparing the current historical moment to World War II. To defeat the Nazis, Western leaders put aside their distaste for dictator Joseph Stalin and agreed to align themselves with him.
"Similar to the anti-Hitler coalition, [the new approach] could unite a broad range of forces that are willing to resolutely resist those who just like the Nazis sow evil and hatred of humankind," the Russian leader said, cleverly employing a reference popular among the U.S. pundits willing to tolerate Assad.
Putin made a particular appeal to Muslim countries, arguing that they should want to combat the Islamic State because of the image problems that its horrifying actions have created for Islam.
What he left out is that there already is an international coalition against the Islamic State that includes in its ranks many of the world's most prominent and powerful Muslim countries. They're working not only on military assaults against the Islamic State -- which have, granted, had limited success -- but also on preventing the spread of its ideology.
Putin's Yalta comparison also left a little to be desired. Sixty years later and in a very different conflict, policymakers face an array of choices, not simply whether to accept one vile actor to defeat a worse one. Working with Assad is by no means guaranteed to change the situation regarding the Islamic State, given his regime's indirect collusion with the extremist group and reluctance to directly confront it, and it could have dangerous consequences for the future unity of Syria. In addition, while the West knew that Stalin and Hitler had broken ties by the time it aligned with Moscow, the Assad regime and the Islamic State continue to have a shared interest in wiping out more moderate, nationalist forces in the country -- one reason, analysts say, why they leave one another alone.
Efforts against the Islamic State, Putin said, should be based on his proposed resolution and the United Nations charter. That mention of the U.N. charter is especially important -- its strictures about respecting state sovereignty provide a convenient crutch for Putin to use as he argues that the rest of the world, be it the West or the Arab Gulf states, should let his chief Arab ally stay in power.
"We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces," Putin said.
For more on Putin's address, his first to the U.N. in 10 years, go here.