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US desperate to snatch initiative away from Russia in fighting Islamic State

January 25, 19:47 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

MOSCOW, January 25. /TASS/. Washington’s declared readiness to launch a ground operation in Syria and Iraq is a sure sign the United States is determined to snatch away initiative in the struggle with the terrorist Islamic State from Russia, for this would help President Barack Obama save face, polled experts have told TASS.

At the end of last week Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said the United States-led anti-terrorist coalition was ready to launch a ground operation in Syria and Iraq in a bid to recapture from terrorists the cities of Raqqah and Mosul - key strongholds of Islamic State militants. "The storied 101st Airborne Division will soon deploy 1,800 troops to Iraq to aid in the fight against IS," Carter said in an article published by Politico magazine. The decision had been agreed with top US military officials and the allies, including France, Carter said. "Now is the time to do even more," he said.

Syrian and Iraqi officials had come out against the participation of foreign troops in the struggle with the Islamic State in the territories of their countries.

Deputy director of the Institute of US and Canada Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Viktor Kremenyuk, believes that Washington has made a decision in favour of a ground operation in Syria and Iraq for the simple reason it fears losing the leading positions in the world. "The White House hates the idea the Kremlin will take all the credit for the yet-to-be achieved victory over the Islamic State. Russia has been very effective in eliminating terrorists’ military facilities and oil infrastructures in Syria. The United States has described this as a challenge, because the Republicans in Congress have long been taking digs at Barack Obama for being too passive and hesitant," Kremenyuk told TASS.

"Obama’s second term will expire in November. What legacy will this Nobel peace laureate leave for the world to inherit after two terms in office? Military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have not restored peace to these countries. Devastation, poverty and terrorism thrive. In the Middle East, Obama needs at least something that might look like victory. He has no time to stay idle on the sidelines and wait for Putin to win victory over the Islamic State," Kremenyuk said.

In his opinion, the purposes of the operation on the ground the Pentagon has identified, should they be achieved with the help of the United States’ Arab allies and indirect involvement of the Europeans, will enable the Americans to put under control the Islamic State militants’ oil production centre in Iraq’s Mosul Province and strip them of multi-billion dollar incomes, as well as to eliminate the centre of extremist activity in the Syrian city of Raqqah.

Kremenyuk drew attention to the fact that in the course of election debates presidential candidates were expressing discontent over the current condition of US-Russian relations, because both countries were faced with a common threat of radical Islamism. "Should the Pentagon launch a ground operation in Iraq and, in particular, in Syria, there will emerge an opportunity for enhancing cooperation in the region between Washington and Moscow, coordinating action in the struggle against Islamic State militants and at least avoiding disruption of each other’s efforts, if not helping each other. This circumstance is of particular importance to the success of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, due at the end of January. Then it will be possible achieve an easing of tensions over the Ukrainian crisis and the eventual cancellation of anti-Russian sanctions and Russia’s counter-sanctions," Kremenyuk believes.

The head of the International Security Centre at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ institute of the world economy and international relations IMEMO, Alexey Arbatov, believes that intervention by Russia’s air group has whipped up the US-declared ground operation in Syria and Iraq. "With Russia’s air support the government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have obtained real chances to recapture a number of villages from Islamic State militants. In the territories being bombed by the United States there are no such changes. This is an unmistakable evidence of rivalry," Arbatov told TASS.

He doubts US troops will participate in combat operations. US military servicemen will most probably take commanding positions or help the anti-terrorist coalition allies storm Mosul and Raqqah. "The seizure of these strategically important cities would be a major success for the United States," Arbatov believes. "That Syria and Iraq are against the participation of foreign troops in ground operations in their territory will not stop the Pentagon, because neither Damascus nor Baghdad controls the terrorists-held provinces."

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