U.S. President Barack Obama says he is not confident ''we can trust the Russians or Vladimir Putin'' to reduce hostilities in Syria. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: U.S. President Barack Obama said Russia's and Syria's most recent actions have raised doubts about their commitment to a pause in the conflict Syria, where the United States is exploring options to cooperate with Russia militarily to defeat Islamic State. "I'm not confident that we can trust the Russians or Vladimir Putin, which is why we have to test whether or not we can get an actual cessation of hostilities," Obama said. "That includes an end to the kinds of aerial bombing and civilian death and destruction that we've seen carried out by the Assad regime and Russia may not be able to get there, either because they don't want to or because they don't have sufficient influence over Assad and that's what we're going to test." The twin U.S. goals in Syria have been ending the violence that already has claimed some 400,000 lives, according to United Nations estimates, and seeking a political process to replace Assad, whom Obama has said "must go." Proposals for the United States and Russia to cooperate in Syria would have them share intelligence to coordinate air strikes and prohibit the Syrian air force from attacking rebel groups considered moderate. But U.S. military and intelligence officials have called the plan naive and said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry risks falling into a trap that Russian President Vladimir Putin has laid to discredit the United States with moderate rebel groups and drive some of their fighters into the arms of Islamic State and other extremist groups. Obama said that the stress of seeking a solution to the crisis had turned his hair gray. "If we are able to get a genuine cessation of hostilities that prevents indiscriminate bombing, that protects civilians, that allows humanitarian access and creates some sort of pathway to begin the hard work of political negotiations inside of Syria, then we have to try because the alternative is a perpetuation of civil war. I mean I've been wrestling with this thing now for a lot of years. I am pretty confident that a big chunk of my grey hair comes out of my Syria meetings," he said. Earlier this week, a Syrian rescue service operating in rebel-held territory said a helicopter dropped containers of toxic gas overnight on a town close to where a Russian military helicopter had been shot down hours earlier. The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) accused President Bashar al-Assad of being behind the attack. Assad has denied previous accusations of using chemical weapons.