Open conflict between Russia and the United States is heating up in Syria. After American forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet, Russia suspended use of an Obama-era communications line used to prevent collisions and conflict, and threatened to shoot down American planes.
America's Syria policy was and continues to be absolutely moronic. But this alarming development is also a reminder that there is simply no alternative to diplomatic engagement with Russia, the world's only other nuclear superpower. That's something both the American military, and liberals fired up over Trump's Russia scandal, would do well to remember.
But, as we saw during the Cuban Missile Crisis, sometimes an escalating, high-stakes conflict can bring the worst-case scenario closer and closer.
So what are we doing in Syria to justify ratcheting up tensions with Russia? The prospect of nuclear warheads a mere few dozen miles off the American coast was at least a comprehensible strategic threat. In Syria there is not only no strategic threat, there is not even a realistic American objective of any kind.
Moscow is still waiting for an explanation from Washington about the downing of a Syrian warplane, the Russian Foreign minister has said after talks with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian. Sergey Lavrov also expressed hope that US actions won’t undermine anti-terrorist efforts in Syria.
“There is a mechanism [to avoid Syria airspace incidents between Russia and US] that is now suspended after the US shot down that plane,” Lavrov told reporters. “We have requested a detailed explanation through the Ministry of Defense. We expect that it will be provided.”
The US-led coalition shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet over the province of Raqqa on Sunday saying it allegedly dropped bombs on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia. The Syrian government countered that it was carrying out operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
And now, on Sunday evening, a Syrian Su-22 that was carrying out a mission against ISIS militants in the vicinity of al-Raqqa was shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter. This barbarous step unseen since the days of the Bosnian war has marked new heights in the Pentagon’s military aggression against sovereign states.
The destruction of an aircraft that was carrying out an anti-terrorist mission over its own territory, in the best interests of its citizens and its country is, without a glimpse of a doubt, a war crime. As the Military Times emphasizes, this is a vivid example of the critical level of tension that exists between the Syrian government, supported by Russia, and US coalition forces.
Therefore, the immediate response of the Russian Defense Ministry, which called the destruction of the Syrian warplane by uninvited US forces in Syrian airspace a cynical violation of the country’s sovereignty, committed in disregard of Moscow’s repeated warnings about the possible consequences of the repeated destruction of Syrian military assets and personnel which pose no threat to the US.
Washington’s actions in Syria clearly show that its stated goals have nothing in common with the real goals the US has been pursuing in Syria, repeatedly committing acts of armed aggression against the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian military.
Today, everyone understands that by their actions, the Pentagon seeks to stop the the movement of Syrian forces eastward, and also to undermine the joint Syrian-Iraqi strategic defense project against ISIS before it takes off. After all, no opposition group, regardless of its affiliation (Kurds, local tribes, the so-called Free Syrian Army etc.) has the capacity to replace ISIS and its ability to fight Syrian forces, since none of these other proxies can resist the Syrian Arab Army.
However, Washington’s recent actions must be regarded more broadly: will it continue supporting terrorists across the globe, trying to put groups like ISIS in power in a bid toward achieving global domination through the use of proxy forces? Will Europe continue suffering from terrorist attacks that are undermining the existing security paradigm, while the US demands its “European allies” to increase their expenditures on arms purchases that are allegedly needed for combating terrorism?
Iran's recent missile attack on ISIS targets in eastern Syria represents another escalation in the ongoing war between radical Shi'ites and jihadist Sunnis across the Middle East.
Iran, which is leading an array of heavily armed Shi'ite proxies and militias deployed in the region, fired a volley of six to seven missiles at targets located 700 kilometers away. It was in retaliation for deadly ISIS terror attacks earlier this month on Tehran's parliament and a shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini, who founded the Islamic Republic.
The Syrian strikes mark the first time Iran fired surface-to-surface missiles outside of testing programs since the Iran-Iraq war, nearly 30 years ago, said Tal Inbar, head of the Space and UAV Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya, Israel.
"In this respect, there is perhaps a certain crossing of a psychological line. Ballistic missiles are seen as strategic weapons that are rarely used," he said.
"The question is, will this be a one-off incident, or has a strategic and psychological dam been burst, and this will become routine?" Inbar asked. "We don't yet know if this will become a trend."
“Repeated combat actions by U.S. aviation under the cover of counterterrorism against lawful armed forces of a country that is a member of the U.N. are a massive violation of international law and de facto a military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”
If Moscow is not bluffing, we could be headed for U.S.-Russian collision in Syria.
And what we may be witnessing now are the opening shots of its next phase — the battle for control of the territory and population liberated by the fall of Raqqa and the death of the ISIS “caliphate.”
But if America has decided to use its air power to shoot down Syrian planes attacking rebels we support, this could lead to a confrontation with Russia and a broader, more dangerous, and deadly war for the United States.
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