Russia’s wrath after US downs Syrian bomber
Don’t stray west of Euphrates, warns Moscow
RUSSIA’S Defence Ministry warned yesterday, following the US downing of a Syrian Su-22 fighter-bomber, that it will treat US coalition planes west of the Euphrates river as targets.
Moscow called on the US military to come clean on why it shot down the Syrian plane over Raqqa province, where the Syrians say it was attacking Isis positions — the US claims the jet had bombed close to US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions.
Moscow has suspended co-ordination with the US in Syria over “deconfliction” zones after Washington designated zones unilaterally.
The ministry said that it viewed the incident as Washington’s “deliberate failure to make good on its commitments” under the deconfliction deal.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that the downing was akin to “helping the terrorists that the US is fighting against,” asking: “What is this if not an act of aggression?”
The US military claimed to have acted in a “show of force” after pro-Damascus fighters attacked the town of Ja’din, south of Tabqa, held by its Kurdish-led SDF allies.
But a meeting convened by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the political wing of the YPG armed forces, at the weekend offers another explanation.
The PYD met envoys from the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates in the Kurdish-liberated area of northern Syria, where the international representatives urged the YPG and SDF to take full control of Syria’s border with Iraq once Raqqa is taken.
Syrian troops and allied militias met up with Iraqi forces at the al-Waleed border crossing on Sunday after Isis fighters were routed.
Awareness of the new US strategy, backed by PYD-YPG in the expectation that Washington will reciprocate by backing Kurdish national claims, has spurred the Syrian army to strike out eastwards to block any Kurdish advance to the border.
It took the town of Rusafa and crossroads of the same name in south-western Raqqa yesterday after commandos drove out Isis.
Rusafa is the junction of roads leading from Raqqa city in the north to Deir Ezzor in the south-east and this advance blocks the SDF from advancing south of Tabqa district towards the Rusafa oil fields.
Russia suspends cooperation with US in Syrian airspace
Russia on Monday suspended cooperation with the United States in Syrian airspace after the U.S.-led coalition shot down a Syrian jet on Sunday.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that it “terminates cooperation with the U.S. side within the framework of the Memorandum on Incident Prevention and Aviation Safety in operations in Syria from June 19, and demands a thorough investigation by the U.S. command (into the downing).”
According to the statement, a U.S. F/A-18 fighter jet on Sunday shot down a Syrian Su-22 bomber, which was carrying out a combat mission in support of government troops conducting an offensive against Islamic State terrorists in the vicinity of Raqqa, the group’s stronghold.
The U.S. Central Command said, however, that the Syrian plane bombed U.S.-backed forces and the action against it was “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces.”
In Monday’s statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said it considered the downing of the Syrian warplane “a cynical violation of the sovereignty” of Syria, and “a gross violation of international law and, in fact, a military aggression against Syria.”
It added that Russian warplanes were also operating in Syria’s airspace at the moment of the attack, but the U.S.-led coalition didn’t use the existing communication channels to warn the Russian military.
From now on, all aircraft and drones of the coalition detected west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by Russian air- and ground-based air defense systems as targets, the ministry warned.
Russia to ‘target’ United States war aircraft in Syria
Russia has threatened to shoot down United States warplanes over Syria after US fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane.
Moscow warned it will view all US coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates River in Syria as “airborne targets” in response to the incident.
Russia’s Defence Ministry announced that it was ending US-Russian co-operation in Syria that had been designed to prevent a direct conflict between the great powers.
“Repeated military actions by US aircraft against the lawful armed forces of a United Nations member state, under the guise of a ‘fight against terrorism,’ are a profound violation of international law and, in fact, military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement.
“As a result of the strike, the Syrian plane was destroyed. The Syrian pilot catapulted into an area controlled by Islamic State terrorists. His fate is unknown.”
The US military confirmed a US F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday, after it dropped bombs near the US partner forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
SDF fighters are aligned with the Americans in the campaign against the Islamic State group.
Russia has been a staunch supporter of Syria’s beleaguered President Bashar Assad and has been providing an air cover for his offensive against IS since 2015.
Earlier Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov compared the downing to “helping the terrorists that the US is fighting against.”
“What is this, if not an act of aggression,” he said.
Meanwhile, the US-backed opposition fighters said Assad’s forces have been attacking their positions in the northern province of Raqqa and warned that if such attacks continue, the fighters will take action.
Clashes between Syrian troops and SDF would escalate tensions in the country and open a new frontline in the many complex battlefields of the civil war, now in its seventh year.
Clashes between the Kurdish-led SDF and Syrian forces have been rare and some rebel groups have even accused them of coordinating on the battlefield.
The clashes come as both sides are fighting against Islamic State, with SDF fighters now focusing on their march into the northern city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS.
Government forces have also been attacking IS in northern, central and southern Syria, seizing 25,000 square kilometres and reaching the Iraqi border for the first time in years.
SDF spokesman Talal Sillo said the government aims to thwart the SDF offensive to capture the city of Raqqa.
He said government forces began attacking SDF on Saturday, using warplanes, artillery and tanks in areas that SDF had liberated from IS.
‘Coalition jets over Syria are fair game,’ says Russia – Independent.ie
Moscow, Syria’s main ally, announced that it would start tracking jets and drones of the US-led coalition and halt an incident-prevention hotline with America, which was set up to avoid accidents in the crowded skies above Syria.
“Any flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, discovered west of the Euphrates river will be tracked as aerial targets by Russia’s air defences on and above ground,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s defence ministry warned.
The Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber was shot down by an American F18 Super Hornet on Sunday after it had dropped bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) north of the Isil-held city of Raqqa.
The US, which has special forces troops in the area, said it sent a warning to the Syrian military to stop targeting the forces and called on Russia to rein in its ally.
Russia denied that it was informed of the planned strike.
Moscow condemned the US action, saying it flouted international law.
“It is help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy,” Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said, adding that it was a “dangerous escalation”.
The SDF, meanwhile, warned that it would retaliate against further regime attacks on its troops – a combination of Kurds and Arabs which are leading the fight for Isil’s self-styled capital Raqqa.
The Pentagon said in a statement that the coalition did “not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces” but will not “hesitate to defend itself or its “partnered forces from any threat”.
The US-led coalition has in recent weeks escalated its aerial bombing campaign in northern Syria and Raqqa province.
On several occasions, its warplanes have also struck pro-government forces to prevent them advancing on a US-controlled garrison in south-eastern Syria.
The US military said yesterday that it was repositioning its aircraft to ensure the safety of American air crews.
British Prime Minister Theresa May downplayed any risk to Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots.
She said: “There are deconfliction arrangements in place already in relation to activity that takes place over the skies of Syria and those deconfliction arrangements will continue.”
A British government spokesman added that it wanted all parties to focus on combating Isil.
The US had not shot down a Syrian regime aircraft before Sunday’s confrontation, said Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
While the US has said since it began recruiting, training and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight Isil that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat to make good on that promise.
America has been flexing its muscles in Syria ever since US President Donald Trump came to power, with a pledge to give more power to the Pentagon.
He strongly criticised his predecessor, Barack Obama, for his inability to resolve the Syrian civil war – even blaming Mr Obama for creating Isil.
The Tabqa Su-22 Shoot-Down And Aftermath
“The Race to the Elbe”
The current situation resembles the closing months of World War 2 in Europe, when Soviet and Western Allied armies were racing into the collapsing Third Reich. While they were still fighting against a common enemy, it was already clear they were staking out territory in anticipation of a post-war world order which would be divided, in keeping with the Tehran and Yalta conference understandings, into great power spheres of influence. But in 1945 the situation did not escalate into an armed clash between the erstwhile allies because there already existed a political framework for their ultimate meeting, namely the Elbe River. However, it should be noted, this framework did not preclude a number of clashes in between US and Soviet aircraft, and was barely sufficient to contain fanatically anti-Soviet US officers like General George S. Patton from seeking to press forward in violation of the political agreements. It also helped that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not interested in a US-Soviet confrontation and his authority and reputation were sufficient to rein in the anti-Soviet faction of the US and British military and intelligence services.
Today we are once again seeing to coalitions, one Russia-led and one US-led, racing to fill the void leaving by the rapidly vanishing ISIS whose fighters are either choosing to go to the ground or are being evacuated to safe havens to be used in another theater of war. But there is no political framework on how the void is to be filled, and there is no FDR in the White House to rein in the anti-Russian faction in the US military and intelligence. The last but not least difference between Germany and ISIS is that US forces are operating in and over Syria wholly illegally from the point of view of international and even domestic US law, and the fact the US is waging an illegal “shadow” war makes it that much more difficult to work out common rules to avoid incidents.
Who gave the order?
Unlike the Shayrat strike, which was clearly approved at the very top of the US chain of command, the earlier incidents at al-Tanf and the current one at Tabqa were most likely motivated by the unilaterally adopted US rules of engagement which posit any and all force may be used to prevent harm from coming to US servicemembers who are embedded with a variety of irregular formations, such as the so-called “Free Syrian Army” or the Kurdish “Self-Defense Forces.” The rapidity with which the situation over Tabqa escalated means that there was no way a decision to shoot-down the Su-22 could have been made had higher authorities at the Pentagon or the White House been consulted. In all likelihood, the highest US officer to be involved in the decision was the duty officer at the CENTCOM headquarters in Qatar, and the incident was most likely the product of a combination of the rapid SDF and SAA advances that put the Su-22 over an area which was believed to be still held by ISIS. The Su-22 pilot or the command which planned the mission, for its part, likely had no inkling US military personnel would be present in the area to which it was dispatched.
This is not to say the US is not pursuing an agenda of limiting Russian influence in Syria, or the level of control of the legitimate Syrian government over its country’s territory, to the maximum extent possible. While “regime change” is no longer on the agenda in Washington, the goal of dismembering the Syrian state in order to establish a variety of US-controlled Sunni and Kurdish enclaves to serve as a barrier between Iran and Lebanon and as a corridor for pipelines toward Turkey and, ultimately, Europe, still remains. It is likewise plainly evident that Russia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran are doing everything in their power to prevent that agenda from being implemented, and the Tabqa incident is but the most recent manifestation of that clash of interests. What the two nuclear superpowers backing each of the coalitions have thus far shied away from doing is targeting each other’s personnel and assets directly. It is notable that US aircraft do not fly in the vicinity of Russian ground units in Syria, and likewise there were no Russian aircraft present over Tabqa, either. What unfortunately complicates the situation is the absence of not only a political agreement but also a unified chain of command that ensures both coalitions know exactly what the other is doing and prevent incidents such as al-Tanf and Tabqa. Syrian, Iraq, and Iranian forces involved in the conflict are waging their own wars whose aims may not wholly coincide with those of Washington or Moscow, but which may nevertheless draw Washington and Moscow into a direct confrontation with each other, not unlike the 2008 conflict in Georgia or the current civil war in Ukraine.
Since the US evidently does not want to be the first to shed blood in a US-Russia confrontation, the most obvious “symmetrical” response is to embed Russian troops with every SAA, Hezbollah, and Shia militia unit operating in the Raqqa Province, back them up with fighter air patrols, and to make the US military command aware of that fact. So far, US forces have shied away from clashing with Russian forces in Syria, therefore that particular “red line” will likely be advanced as far forward as possible to prevent further US attacks on Syrian, Iranian, or Shia forces operating in eastern Syria.
Secondly, Russia would definitely benefit from having a powerful military ally akin to Turkey that can occasionally target an asset of a nuclear superpower and…largely get away with it. Iran’s launch of ballistic missiles at ISIS targets near Der es-Zor suggests it has decided to enter the fray in a far more overt fashion, likely secure in the knowledge that US is no more likely to attack Iran in retaliation for a ballistic missile strike that kills or wounds some of its troops in Syria than Russia was going to attack Turkey in retaliation for the Su-24 shoot-down. Moreover, the US does not even have the ability to use sanctions to force Iranian compliance, in the way that Russian sanctions have forced the Turks to moderate their own policy in Syria.
Fortunately, Washington seems aware that Moscow will not be bullied into appeasement by such incidents or, especially, attacks on its own forces. Such attacks are far likely to provoke a symmetric Russian retaliation against US assets in the region, all of which are vulnerable to Russian cruise missile strikes, just as US aircraft would quickly suffer losses if confronted with Russian fighters and ground-based air defenses. Unfortunately it means that the only way to contain Washington’s adventurism in Syria is by deliberate Cold War-style “brinksmanship” by Moscow in concert with Tehran.
Russia terminates air incident prevention agreement with US after downing Syrian jet
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (4: 20 P.M.) – Russia is halting cooperation with the US forces regarding the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria after the US shot down a Syrian fighter jet west of Raqqa yesterday, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
“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 statement released by the MoD reads.
Moreover, Russian military will track all the aircraft west of Euphrates river in Syria, including US-led coalition’s jets and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), as legitimate aerial targets, Interfax agency quoted Russian Ministry of Defense as saying.
Yesterday, a US fighter jet shot down a Syrian Su-22 while on a combat mission against the Islamic State positions in the western countryside of the group’s de-fact capital of Raqqa.
Today, the Syrian government forces, backed by local fighters, managed to fully recapture al-Rasafa following fierce clashes with ISIS.
Russian military ‘to track coalition jets as targets in Syria’: Ministry of Defense
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:25 P.M.) – Russian military will track all the aircraft west of Euphrates river in Syria, including US-led coalition’s jets and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), as legitimate aerial targets, Interfax agency quoted Russian Ministry of Defense as saying.
“Any aerial objects, including warplanes and UAVs belonging to international coalition, spotted west of Euphrates river, will be escorted and tracked by Russian air defense systems both on the ground and in the air as aerial targets,” MoD announced in its official statement issued soon after US-led coalition brought Syrian fighter jet down in Raqqa province.
In addition to that, Russian MoD announced it had halted coordination with Pentagon on Syria after yesterday’s incident.
“As of June 19, Ministry of Defense halts coordination with U.S. counterparts within the framework of Memorandum on incident prevention and flight safety in Syria,” MoD officials said.
In the meantime, Franz Klintsevich, head of Defense Committee in the Russian Parliament, clarified that Russia “will not automatically shoot down aerial objects in the areas of Russian Air Force operations, as decisions are to be made individually in each particular case”.
He elaborated, however, that “in case of any aggressive actions by those objects, these actions are going to be firmly suppressed”.
Pentagon changes disposition of US-led coalition aircraft in Syria
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (9:40 P.M.) – The United States decided to re-position fighter jets belonging to the US-led international coalition, Pentagon’s spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway told reporters on Monday.
“As a result of recent clashes with Syrian pro-regime and Russian forces, we took precautions to change the disposition of the aircraft in Syria in order to continue fighting Islamic State, while maintaining safety of our pilots – considering the known threats on the battlefield,” he toldInterfax agency.
Rankine-Galloway did not give a straight answer regarding Russia’s decision to halt participation in the Memorandum on incident prevention in Syria.
According to him, “the U.S. are always ready to work with the Russians on incident prevention to maintain safety of the coalition’s pilots during combat operations.”
“The direct channel on conflict prevention has proved its effectiveness in terms of decreasing the probability of strategic miscalculations and de-escalation of tensions,” said Rankine-Galloway.
In the meantime, the U.S. are going to work with Russia through diplomatic and military channels in order to restore the incident prevention direct line, head of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, told the press on Monday speaking at the conference of National Press club.
Syrian Soldiers Rescue Pilot of Su-22 Fighter Jet Downed by US-Led Coalition
DAMASCUS (Sputnik) — On Sunday, a US jet shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter-bomber near the city of Tabqah. The coalition said the Syrian aircraft attacked Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions, adding that the coalition downed the Syrian jet as part of “collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces.”
“The soldiers of General Suheil al-Hassan discovered and rescued the pilot of the downed aircraft. Now, Col. Fahd is in hospital and nothing threatens his life,” the source said.
According to the source, the downed Syrian pilot was found about 30 kilometers (17 miles) south of Raqqa. The rescue operation was complicated by the fact that the pilot’s landing site was in close proximity to the positions of Daesh (terrorist group outlawed in Russia) which also searched for the Syrian pilot.
The command of the Syrian army stated that the downed Su-22 was involved in anti-Daesh operations and accused the coalition of coordinating strikes with the terrorists.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also criticized the actions of US-led coalition in Syria, saying the United States should respect the sovereignty of the country and coordinate operations with Damascus.