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Moscow 'Far More Successful' at Tackling Daesh in Syria Than Washington in Iraq

© REUTERS / Omar SanadikiA Russian soldier walks to a military vehicle in goverment controlled Hanono housing district in Aleppo, Syria December 4, 2016
A Russian soldier walks to a military vehicle in goverment controlled Hanono housing district in Aleppo, Syria December 4, 2016 - Sputnik International
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Although policymakers in the United States, including most recently Defense Secretary Ash Carter, have downplayed Moscow's role in weakening Daesh in the Middle East, Russia has in fact been far more successful at tackling the terrorist group than Washington, political analyst Tom Switzer told Radio Sputnik.

Russia's aerial campaign in Syria and the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq are "almost doing the same thing," he said. "They are helping Iranian-backed Shia-aligned regimes defeat Sunni rebels. The difference of course is that the Russian campaign has been successful, certainly when it comes to east Aleppo, and the American campaign has not succeeded."

The embattled Syrian city of Aleppo was partially controlled by armed radical groups since July 2012. In July 2016, the Syrian Arab Army, assisted by Russia, Iran and its local allies, launched a campaign to cut militant supply lines to rebel-held districts of the city and eventually free neighborhoods controlled by a loose coalition of terrorist groups, including al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham. Aleppo was fully liberated by December 22.

Meanwhile, the United States and its allies have provided assistance to Iraqi security forces, Kurdish fighters and local militias trying to push Daesh out of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. The joint offensive, launched in mid-October, has slowed down, but Baghdad-led forces are expected to take eastern Mosul under control in the coming weeks.

"The reality is that Russians have been far more successful in defeating the Sunni rebels in Syria than the Americans have been in Iraq. Certainly Mosul is a classic case in point," Switzer said.

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter suggested that Russia hasn't "done anything" to tackle Daesh, adding that the United States and its allies "we're fighting [the terrorist group] ourselves." He also said that Russia's counterterrorism efforts in Syria are "virtually zero."

Military engineers of the Russian Army' international counter-mine center continue the demining operation in eastern Aleppo, Syria - Sputnik International
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Carter "is reflecting a widespread consensus in Washington that Russia's intervention in Syria has been counterproductive and that Moscow has played a limited role in helping defeat [Daesh]," the expert said.

Switzer, a senior fellow at the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney, pointed out that the Syrian conflict should be viewed in a broader context.

"The first four years of this crisis the US and its Sunni allies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, have been aiding and abetting the Sunni rebellion against the Assad regime. That Sunni rebellion had morphed into various Sunni jihadists, like [Daesh]. If you go to summer of 2015, the Sunni rebellion was on the cusp of defeating" president Bashar al-Assad, he said.

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If it weren't for Russia's decision to assist legitimate Syrian authorities, radical groups "would have taken Aleppo" and mounted a major assault on Damascus, the analyst said. "Now imagine that jihadists took over two major towns of Syria, you'd then have eastern Mediterranean dominated by [Daesh]."

Switzer also hailed Russia for liberating Palmyra.

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