US Dangerously Escalates Air War over Syria
June 21, 2017
AntiWar.com & Agence France Presse & The New Indian Express
A growing number of US attacks targeting the Syrian government and militias aligned with the Syrian government are a sign that the US involvement in the Syrian Civil War is widening, and nothing was so indicative of this than yesterday’s US downing of a Syrian Su-22 bomber.
America’s Role in Syrian War Is Widening
Attacks on Government Forces a
Major Shift in US Priorities
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(June 19, 2017) -- A growing number of US attacks targeting the Syrian government and militias aligned with the Syrian government are a sign that the US involvement in the Syrian Civil War is widening, and nothing was so indicative of this than yesterday’s US downing of a Syrian Su-22 bomber.
As a matter of policy, the US has officially supported the idea of regime change in Syria throughout the war, though up until very recently, their military involvement within Syria had been all but exclusively focused on attacking ISIS forces, with some strikes against al-Qaeda forces as well.
The support for regime change was limited to CIA arms smuggling schemes for rebels, and the fact that this often conflicted with the Pentagon’s military operations focusing on fighting against Islamist rebel factions has fueled some tension in recent years.
The sudden US military involvement in attacking Syrian government forces doesn’t make the US agenda any simpler, and rather leaves the Pentagon fighting against a growing array of rivals, with danger of a direct military conflict against Russia growing all the time.
US Repositioning Aircraft Over Syria
Amid Growing Russia Tensions
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(June 19, 2017) -- In a move that appears to have been directly precipitated by Russia’s warning about US warplanes being treated as “targets” earlier in the day, Central Command (Centcom) has announced that they are repsositioning US aircraft that are deployed inside Syria.
While Centcom cited “recent encounters” with Syrian and Russian planes, they didn’t directly draw a link between this and Russia’s own threats, which followed the US shooting down a Syrian military aircraft, and amounted to warning the US to keep its planes out of all parts of Syria except for the Kurdish territory and ISIS-held parts being contested by the Kurds. In conceding the move was about ensuring the safety of aircrews, however, Centcom effectively conceded it was Russia related.
This has been a long-standing concern since both the US and Russia started having their own aerial operations inside Syria, with serious concern that they would conflict and lead to clashes. So long as they were both targeting ISIS and al-Qaeda, that risk was limited.
With the US increasingly shifting its aerial focus to attacking pro-government forces in Syria, instead of just ISIS, the risk is also growing substantially, as Russia’s comments today make it clear they don’t intend to let the US attack Syrian government targets with impunity.
America's Widening Role in Syria's Civil War
Agence France Presse & The New Indian Express
WASHINGTON (June 20, 2017) -- The unprecedented US downing of a Syrian regime warplane highlights the rapidly shifting dynamic in the six-year conflict where President Donald Trump has given American commanders a freer rein in the battlefield.
The United States insisted Monday it wants no broader role in Syria's civil war, and seeks only to destroy the Islamic State group, but the weekend incident shows the limits of America's ability to stay disengaged.
With myriad competing forces quickly converging in Syria, and new powers delegated to Trump's commanders, the risk of additional confrontation is real.
An American F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday evening as it "dropped bombs" near a US-backed alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting IS, the US-led coalition said in a statement.
The Syrian warplane was shot down "in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces," the statement said. Syria's army has disputed this account, saying its plane was hit while conducting a mission against IS.
A US official told AFP the pilot of the Syrian plane appeared to have ejected before the jet was hit, though his fate was unknown.
How Serious Is This?
The shoot-down marks the first time a US jet has downed a Syrian regime warplane, despite leading a massive air campaign targeting IS in Syria for nearly three years.
Russia, which is flying its own air war in Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad, condemned the incident and said it had shut off a special "deconfliction" hotline with the US military, though top officer General Joe Dunford later said the United States was seeking to re-establish the channel.
Sunday's incident marks the latest in a series of US attacks on pro-regime forces.
On April 7, Trump authorized a cruise missile strike against a Syrian air base in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack by the regime against civilians.
Then on May 18, coalition aircraft struck a pro-regime convoy apparently transporting Shia militiamen as it drove toward a coalition garrison at At-Tanaf near the Jordanian border. A similar incident occurred June 6, and on June 8 a US warplane shot down a pro-regime drone in Syria after it fired at coalition forces.
Deepening American Involvement?
The Pentagon has repeatedly stressed it has no interest in increasing its role in Syria's civil war, and that its sole focus is on defeating IS.
What the recent incidents "indicate is a complicated and complex battlespace, and we continue to try to operate transparently and to communicate intentions around our actions so it is clear we are focusing on the defeat of ISIS in Syria," US Central Command spokesman Colonel John Thomas said on Monday.
Officials emphasize the strikes were all conducted in self-defense after pro-regime forces ignored warnings. But the incidents also highlight the changing dynamics of the Syrian civil war, and observers say further confrontations are likely.
"The US mission in Syria is dangerously morphing from a counterterrorism action against the Islamic State into a party to Syria's civil war," said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of its Long War Journal.
Until recently, pro-regime forces were focused on fighting rebels in western Syria but victories in Aleppo and elsewhere have freed them up to move east, pushing them into contact with the SDF.
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