US: Assad government was on verge of collapse before Russian intervention

Published March 30th, 2016 - 05:00 GMT
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford hold a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, March 25, 2016. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford hold a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, March 25, 2016. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime was about to fall last year before Russia intervened to prop it up, the U.S. top general said Tuesday.

“Let me be honest. I think the Syrian regime was reeling last July or August and is stabilized right now and Assad and the regime is certainly in much better shape than they were before the Russian intervention,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, Joints Chiefs Chairman, said during a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic International Studies.

He said Russia claimed that its intent was to go after Daesh when it intervened in Syria in September but Moscow’s withdrew while there is a lot still to be done against the militant group.

The majority of Russian airstrikes were on U.S. and Turkey backed opposition groups, according to the Pentagon.

Laying out several challenges for the U.S. around the globe, Dunford said Russia is also challenging the stability of eastern Europe, particularly in Ukraine.

He noted that there is a military “adversarial competition” against the U.S. that affects American interests.

“The adversaries know exactly what the threshold is for us to take a decisive military action, so they operate below that level,” he said, referring to Russia and China.

“They continue to advance their interests and we lose competitive advantage, and frankly our interests are adversely affected.” U.S. commanders are going to meet next week to discuss about how to deal with global adversaries, according to Dunford, who suggested the U.S. military should maintain military-to-military communication with Russia in order to avoid miscalculations.

Dunford said he has spoken with his Russian counterpart "three times" this year and described it as a "professional dialogue."


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