Pentagon chief claims US fighting ISIS alone, Russia doing ‘virtually zero’ in Syria

Russia has done “virtually zero” in the fight against Islamic State terrorists in Syria the US Secretary of Defense has claimed, contending that the US and its coalition partners are carrying this burden “by themselves.”

“They haven’t done anything,” Ash Carter stated in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “They came in, they said they were going to fight ISIL, and they said they were going to help in the civil war in Syria.”

“They haven’t done either of those things. As a consequence of course, we’re fighting ISIL ourselves,” adding that Moscow achieved “virtually zero” in Syria.

Carter moved on to praise US-led efforts to free the Iraqi city of Mosul which has been ongoing since the mid-October. He said the US campaign there is going “according to the plan” – contrasting with initial projections and US media reports that Iraq’s second largest city would be liberated in time for the US elections in November.

Criticizing Russian involvement in Syria, Carter said that it “almost certainly” made the ending of Syrian civil war “harder,” because Moscow failed to align with Washington’s intention to oust the Syrian president and failed to “help Assad move aside gently” and “bring the moderate opposition into the Syrian government.”

Moscow never made such promises, however, instead, it has repeatedly insisted that it is up to Syrian people to decide the future of their country without intervention or advice from outside. Russia’s involvement in Syria is focused on preserving Damascus’ sovereignty and bringing those who agree to join the reconciliation process to the negotiation table, while eliminating as many Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other jihadist groups as possible.

Russia has on numerous occasions requested coordinated strikes against IS, but the Pentagon snubbed Moscow’s invitation to do so. In addition, Washington also failed to separate the so-called “moderate” opposition groups from jihadist fighters, further complicating the task.

The US-led international coalition’s own strikes in Syria targeted everything but oil production facilities captured by IS terrorists, the Russian Defense Ministry said earlier, accusing Washington of leading yet another campaign to “methodically and steadily” destroy yet another sovereign country’s economic infrastructure.

Furthermore, US-led forces has “mistakenly” killed dozens of Syrian government soldiers, which Washington promised to avoid when it illegally intervened in the conflict. All fragile ceasefire deals based on agreements reached by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and his US counterpart John Kerry, also ended abruptly as the US repeatedly failed to honor their obligations.

Pointedly, and the turning point in the conflict, was that Russia’s intervention helped liberate the Syrian cities of Palmyra and Aleppo which had been under IS and other jihadist groups tyranny for years. In addition, Moscow led the efforts to secure the latest peace deal negotiated by Russia, Iran and Turkey in late December – and supported by a UN Security Council resolution.

Apart from his unsubstantiated claims about Russian involvement in Syria, Carter also referred to the now widely ridiculed US intelligence “assessment” of Moscow’s alleged involvement in influencing the US election, calling for more punitive measures by the Trump administration.

“I don’t think it should be military or purely military response. There has to be a response, and I think the steps taken so far probably represent the beginning and not the end, the floor, not the ceiling… I believe the price should be more,” Carter said.

The US intelligence community presented a report on Russia’s alleged “activities and intentions” during the elections in response to growing skepticism over its hacking claims – which again offered no hard or technical evidence, but accused Moscow and RT in particular of trying to “influence” American public opinion.

The US Defense Secretary’s latest remarks are nothing more than yet another failed attempt by American politicians to further demonize Russia as well as “hurt” and “embarrass” president-elect Donald Trump, Middle East expert, Joshua Landis told RT.

“We are in a campaign of demonizing Russia right now. Really it is not so much about Russian right now as it is about Trump. I think the Democrats and many republicans like McCain are very badly hurt by Trump and they are sticking it to him. And they are sticking it to him because he has denied the intelligence communities and he has been friendly with Russia,” Landis said.

While Trump has consistently stressed he will work to improve relations with Russia. In one of his latest tweets on Saturday, he said only “stupid” people would want a confrontation with Moscow.

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