As Russia targets US aircraft west of the Euphrates, US redeploys aircraft elsewhere allowing Syrian army to capture strategic town of Rusafa.
Sourced from theduran.com
Back in April, in the immediate aftermath of the US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base, Russia retaliated by switching off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria, which enables these militaries to avoid accidental clashes with each other.
The immediate response to this Russian switching off of the ‘de-confliction’ hotline was a dramatic reduction in US air operations in Syria, as the US air force was forced to scale down its air operations rather than risk a confrontation with the powerful air defence system the Russians have established in Syria.
That this was the case was confirmed by an article in The New York Times dated 8th April 2017, which said the following:
The American-led task force that is battling the Islamic State has sharply reduced airstrikes against the militants in Syria as commanders assess whether Syrian government forces or their Russian allies plan to respond to the United States’ cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield this past week, American officials said.
So far, the Russian military does not appear to have taken any threatening actions, such as directing its battlefield radar or air defense systems to confront the Americans, or carrying out aggressive actions in the skies, United States officials said.
But officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning said the commanders needed time to determine whether the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the Russian military would treat the American cruise missile strike as a one-time operation that they would not respond to militarily. As a precaution, the Pentagon is flying patrols in Syrian skies with F-22 jets, the Air Force’s most advanced air-to-air fighter……
Some American and other Western counterterrorism officials have said the missile strike could………make the fight against the Islamic State in Syria more difficult.
“It seems clear that the strikes will complicate our efforts to pursue our counter-ISIS campaign in Syria,” said Matthew Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “In particular, the ability to carry out U.S. airstrikes in Syria in support of the coalition against ISIS requires some degree of cooperation with Russia, which is now in serious jeopardy.”
Other security experts said that much depended on the Trump administration’s next steps, and how the Assad government and its Russian patrons responded.
“U.S. aircraft operating over Al-Tabqah are already ostensibly in range of the Russian S-400 system at the Humaymin Air Base, and we might see Russia deploy more air defense assets to Syria,” Jeremy Binnie, the Middle East editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly, said in an email. “But if the U.S. makes no moves to threaten Assad’s position, then they may well accept the punishment and move on.”
William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” offered a similar assessment.
The words I have highlighted in this article from 8th April 2017 make clear the difference with the situation today.
After weeks of frantic diplomatic activity the US finally managed to persuade the Russians a few weeks ago to switch the ‘de-confliction’ hotline back on. In response to yesterday’s US shooting down of the SU-22 the Russians have however now once again switched it off.
However this time the Russians have not only once more switched off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline. They have also done what they did not do in April by saying that this time they will take “threatening action by directing their battlefield radar or air defense systems to confront the Americans”.
That this is so is explicitly confirmed in the statement made public yesterday by the Russian Defence Ministry:
As of June 19 this year, the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation has ended its interaction with the US side under a memorandum for preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria and demands that the US command carry out a careful investigation and report about its results and the measures taken.
The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-state are a flagrant violation of international law, in addition to being actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the ministry said.
Russia will regard any flights within the area of its air force group’s operation in Syria as legitimate targets, the ministry stressed.
Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets.
…….the coalition command did not use the existing communication line between the air commands of Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar) and Khmeimim Air Base to prevent incidents in Syria’s airspace. We consider the actions of the US command as a deliberate default on their obligations under the memorandum on on preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria signed on October 20, 2015.
In other words, the Russian response to the shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter near Taqbah has been much stronger than was the Russian response to the US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base.
This is so even though the attack on Al-Shayrat air base attracted massive international media attention, whilst the US shooting down of the SU-22 has attracted very little.
This time however the Russians have announced that they will do precisely the thing which they did not do in April following the US attack on Al-Shayrat air base – and which the New York Times says is very threatening – which is track US aircraft, treating them as targets if they fly west of the Euphrates.
Why have the Russians taken this extraordinary step?
The US claims yesterday justifying the shooting down of the SU-22 aircraft have unravelled. Even the strongly anti-Assad British based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has confirmed that the SU-22 was not bombing Kurdish forces as the US claims but was bombing ISIS fighters as the Syrians say.
A regime warplane was targeted and dropped in the skies of the al-Resafa area […] the warplane was shot down over Al-Resafa area of which the regime forces have reached to its frontiers today, and sources suggested to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that warplanes of the International Coalition targeted it during its flight in close proximity to the airspace of the International Coalition’s warplanes, which caused its debris to fall over Resafa city amid an unknown fate of its pilot, the sources confirmed that the warplane did not target the Syria Democratic Forces in their controlled areas located at the contact line with regime forces’ controlled areas in the western countryside of Al-Tabaqa to the road of Al-Raqqah – Resafa.
Another thing that may have provoked the Russians is that the US has tried to pass off the downing of the SU-22 as caused by Syrian encroachment of an agreed ‘de-confliction area’.
Ja’Din sits approximately two kilometers north of an established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area.
This uses a term – ‘de-confliction area’ – used to describe certain regions of Syria covered by an international agreement reached by Russia, Iran and Turkey in May.
The area where the SU-22 was shot down is not within any of these regions. Al-Jazeera has provided details of where these four ‘de-confliction areas’, and none of them is close to the territory where the SU-22 was shot down
Zone 1 : Idlib province, as well as northeastern areas of Latakia province, western areas of Aleppo province and northern areas of Hama province. There are more than one million civilians in this zone and its rebel factions are dominated by an al-Qaeda -linked alliance.
– Zone 2: The Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in northern Homs province. There are approximately 180,000 civilians in this zone and its network of rebel groups includes al-Qaeda-linked fighters.
– Zone 3 : Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside. Controlled by Jaish al-Islam, a powerful rebel faction that is participating in the Astana talks. It is home to about 690,000 civilians. This zone does not include the adjacent, government-besieged area of Qaboun.
– Zone 4 : The rebel-controlled south along the border with Jordan that includes parts of Deraa and Quneitra provinces. Up to 800,000 civilians live there.
Whilst it is possible that the term “established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area” refers to a term used in some informal agreement between the US and Russia, it seems more likely that the US is trying to establish unilaterally ‘no-go’ areas for the Syrian army, and is using the term ‘de-escalation areas’ to conceal the fact.
If so the Russians will want to put a stop to this practice and this may partly explain the strength of the Russian reaction.
However the single most important reason for the strong Russian reaction is what caused the US to shoot down the SU-22 down in the first place.
As the report from the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights shows, the real reason the SU-22 was shot down was because it was supporting a Syrian army offensive to capture the strategically important town of Rusafa from ISIS.
Rusafa lies south east of Tabqah – the main base of the US backed Kurdish militia in this area – and within striking distance of the main highway between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, the eastern desert city currently besieged by ISIS.
By capturing Rusafa the Syrian army is now in a position to intercept columns of ISIS fighters who might try to flee Raqqa for Deir Ezzor.
The Syrians and the Russians have in recent weeks complained that the US and the Kurds have been doing nothing to prevent ISIS fighters fleeing Raqqa for Deir Ezzor, and in recent days there have even been reports of movements by Kurdish militia to try to block the Syrian army’s offensive to relieve Deir Ezzor.
The shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter appears to have been intended as a warning to stop the Syrian army from capturing Rusafa, so as to block the Syrian army’s attempt to relieve the pressure on Deir Ezzor.
The Russian warning to the US looks in turn to have been intended to make clear to the US that this sort of interference in the Syrian army’s operations to relieve Deir Ezzor is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
The US has heeded the Russian warning. The various statements made by the US and by various US officials today, though full of the usual bluster about the US defending itself and its allies anywhere and everywhere, in fact clearly signal that the US is backing off.
The key words – as my colleague Adam Garrie has said – are those of Colonel Ryan Dillon, chief U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrews given known threats in the battle space.
“Prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria to ensure the safety of aircrews given known threats in the battle space” is code for withdrawal of aircraft from air space where they are at risk of being shot down.
That is what is taking place. Note that Colonel Dillon is careful not to say where the “known threats in the battle space” that are forcing the redeployment of the aircraft are coming from.
The US has no choice. If the Russian decision to switch off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline in April was enough to force the US to reduce sharply its air activity in Syria, the Russian decision to switch off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline and to threaten to treat as aerial targets US aircraft flying west of the Euphrates is a threat the US cannot afford to disregard.
Not surprisingly, shortly before the Russian warning was made public, but probably after it was communicated to the US, the Syrian army captured Rusafa with no further hindrance from the US. Latest reports speak of Syrian army reinforcements flooding into the area.
In the meantime the US is frantically signalling to the Russians its urgent wish to de-escalate the situation. Note for example the markedly conciliatory language of White House spokesman Sean Spicer, and how he repeatedly passed up opportunities to utter words of defiance against Russia or to threaten the Russians with counter-measures during the latest White House press briefing
Q Thanks, Sean. How are you responding to this Russian threat to shoot down American planes over Syria?
SPICER: Well, obviously, we’re going to do what we can to protect our interests. And this is something that we’re going to continue to work with — keep the lines of communication open. And ISIS represents a threat to all nations, and so we’ve got to do what we can to work with partners. And we’re going to continue to keep an open mind of communication with the Russians.
Q So will the U.S. change its flight patterns or behavior in Syria?
SPICER: I’m going to refer — I mean, I think this is a question more for DOD to answer. But I think, obviously, it’s important and crucial that we keep lines of communication open to de-conflict potential issues.
Q Thanks, Sean. Following up on that — and a second one for you, as well — what would the U.S. government’s response be? Is the White House going to issue a warning to the Russian government if they were to follow through on this threat? It seems that your statement — would that be a provocation or something worse, potentially?
SPICER: I mean, I think that the escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody. And the Syrian regime and others in the regime need to understand that we will retain the right of self-defense, of coalition forces aligned against ISIS.
Ultimately the situation in Syria is the same as it has been since the US-Russian confrontation in October.
The fact that the Russians have installed a powerful air defence system in Syria incorporating advanced S-400 and S-300VM Antey 2500 missiles means that the US is unable to confront the Russians directly unless it is prepared to risk possibly very serious casualties.
That is an option neither the US military nor the civilian officials of the Obama and Trump administrations are prepared to face. This is because they know the extraordinary dangers such a clash with the armed forces of a nuclear superpower would risk. They also know US public opinion is strongly opposed to the US becoming drawn into such a clash.
What that means is that though the Russians must act carefully so as not to provoke the US into an unnecessary confrontation which would serve no-one’s interests, ultimately it is the Russians who in Syria have the whip hand.
The chess game in Syria is far from over. The game of move and counter-move continues. With the capture of Rusafa the Syrians and the Russians have however just won another important piece. In the meantime Russia’s warning limits the range of US moves across the Syrian chessboard.
The net result of all these recent moves is that end of the Syrian war may have drawn a little closer.
United States signals intention to occupy Eastern Syria and divide the nation
[Editor’s note: The US-Israel-Saudi ‘Axis of Evil’ that has been behind the wars in Syria and Iraq has been planning to ‘Balkanise’ both nations, breaking them up into multiple small, relatively powerless and easily controlled states.
Now we are seeing this Balkanisation agenda move forward, a veritable Plan B to replace the failing Plan A that was Islamic State.
Above we see the situation on June 5th 2015, ISIS controlled two thirds of Syrian territory. However, after two years of hard fighting, the area controlled by ISIS has shrunk considerably, the YPG Kurds have captured most of the territory along the Turkish border, seized Manbij and surrounded Raqqah on three sides. The Assad govt has taken Palmyra and Aleppo and pushed ISIS east, away from the major cities.
We are expecting the Kurds to declare independence in the near future, the new Kurdistan would be largely based on the northern part of Iraq, but the Kurds would surely also annexe at least a portion of the Syrian territory they currently hold, certainly the Hasakah region in the northeast tip of Syria.
As well as this loss of territory to the newly independent Kurds, we expect Syria to be further carved up by the machinations of the US. It has been clear for quite some time that ISIS is slowly being defeated and with the Iraqi army having pushed ISIL out of Iraq, seizing control of much of the Syrian-Iraqi border in the process, IS is now bottled up into Eastern Syria, beset from all sides by enemies, slowly being crushed and losing territory on all axes.
This seemingly inevitable defeat of IS has had the planners in Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh scratching their heads, hatching new contingency plans that will prolong the war and further the agenda of Balkanisation of the strongest Arab states that oppose Israel.
In order to prevent the eventual defeat of IS and retain control of a large portion of Syria, the US plans to create a new breakaway state out of the territory currently controlled by ISIS and the US-backed ‘rebels’, this is why the US has been sending more and more troops into Syria, their presence inside territory that has just declared independence lends credibility to that new breakaway state and presents the Syrians, Iranians and Russians with a fait accomplit – either accept this new state or invade and seize the territory, which would mean having to directly confront and combat the US troops on the ground.
It is a simple, stark choice – allow the breakup of Syria or start WW3…. Ian]
United States signals intention to occupy Eastern Syria and divide the nation
Tensions in Syria hit an all time high when the US military shot down a Syrian SU-22 that was attacking Al Qaeda jihadist forces on the ground.
The US version of the incident goes like this (courtesy of The Hill)…
A statement from the U.S. military said it shot down the Syrian SU-22 in self-defense and after contacting Russian counterparts through the established deconfliction zone. The Syrian aircraft was bombing U.S.-backed forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) south of Tabqa. It was the first time the United States has shot down a Syrian plane, and the first time a U.S. military jet has shot down any manned aircraft since 1999.
The reality is much more complex, yet simpler. Syria was flying its jets over Syrian sovereign territory, moving to attack Al Qaeda jihadists (aka “moderate rebels”) operating illegally in Syrian territory, and backed up by US forces, which have set up operations illegally within Syrian sovereign territory.
The US has not been invited by the internationally recognized government of Syria to fight ISIS on Syrian land, and as such the United States has de-facto invaded and occupied Eastern Syria.
To make matters worse, the US is supporting Al Qaeda terrorists as a foot soldier proxy army, in order to secure as much of Eastern Syria as possible, and create a rump state Syria, effectively dividing the once united country.
Russia responded to the US aggression by saying its surface-to-air missile systems in Syria would begin to track manned and unmanned aircraft from the US coalition if they move west of the Euphrates River.
Once again we see American regime change policy gone horribly wrong (as expected) with consequences now pushing the US military into full confrontation with Russia and Iran…two countries which have been invited by the Syrian government to operate on Syrian sovereign territory to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda.
The Hill reports that American forces may be digging in, ready to protect the Al Qaeda army at all costs so as to ensure an East-West division in Syria…
Robert Ford, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria, said there is real danger to the U.S. as tensions flare.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has vowed to recapture all Syrian territory lost during the nation’s civil war, Ford noted in an email.
“There is, therefore, a real risk of escalation, especially if, unlike in western Syria, the Americans insist on backing up their Syrian allies on the ground and there is no deal with Assad,” he said.
U.S. and Syrian forces largely had stayed out of each other’s way before, because the United States operated mostly in eastern Syria and the government forces mostly in western Syria.
But since the fall of Aleppo, pro-Assad forces have been moving further east, bringing them into closer proximity with the U.S. forces and upping the potential for confrontation, said Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and professor at Yale.
Assad can’t match U.S. airpower, Ford said, but could hit U.S. forces in other ways.
“The escalation may be asymmetrical,” he said. “Assad’s air force can’t challenge ours. Look instead for car bombs, ground ambushes and small-scale, regular attacks against our forces and those we back in eastern Syria. The Syrian government is very experienced at testing the edges of any envelope or red line.”
War hawks in neocon think tanks are salivating at an all out confrontation breaking out between all the players involved…
Nile Gardiner, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, doubted Moscow would follow through on its threat. Russia, for instance, did not retaliate militarily after Turkey shot down its jet in 2015, he noted.
He called the U.S. military’s decision to shoot down a Syrian jet a “welcome development.”
“Washington has sent a clear message to Moscow that it’s no longer business as usual,” he said. “For too long, the Russians have treated Syria as their own backyard.”
But even if neither Russia nor the United States wants to get dragged further into war, they could be “chain ganged” to their allies who are jockeying to control land taken from ISIS, said Stephen Biddle, adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Other experts worry about the U.S. military attacking pro-Assad forces without a larger Syria strategy from President Trump.
Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, has advocated for more U.S. involvement in the civil war. But she expressed alarm at the United States shooting down the Syrian jet and attacking militias at Al Tanf without a larger strategy.
“My biggest concern is not escalation, although I agree that there’s a real risk,” she said. “Escalation toward a particular end is a good thing. Escalation for no reason with no particular goal is not.”
We remind our readers, the sovereign nation of Syria, whose government is internationally recognized by the United Nations, has invited Russia and Iran to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda.
The United States has not been invited into Syria.
This the irony of neocon war hawks making comments such as, “for too long, the Russians have treated Syria as their own backyard”, which exposes the perversion of US propaganda and the despicable nature of American military empire.
Syria is neither Russia’s or America’s backyard, but only one country was invited to enter the backyard, and it was not the United States.