The threat of direct Russian-American confrontation in Syria escalated on Monday after Moscow said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river as a potential target.
Russia said it was responding to US planes shooting down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday. The US said its planes had acted to defend US-backed forces seeking to capture the Islamic State capital of Raqqa in north-east Syria.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.
“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy.”
The Russian ministry also said it would respond to the attack by suspending its communications channel with Washington, which is designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.
The prime minister, Theresa May, intervened on Monday, urging Russia not to end the “deconfliction arrangements” since it increases the risk of an air fight breaking out inadvertently between Russian warplanes and US-led coalition warplanes.
Responding to Russian announcements, Marine Corps general Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US would “work diplomatically and military in the coming hours to reestablish deconfliction”.
The growing risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia follows a decision by US president Donald Trump to grant his military chiefs untrammelled control of he US military strategy in Syria.
Senior US lawmakers have been voicing concern at the lack of a declared Trump administration strategy for Syria beyond the crushing of Isis. Democratic senator Chris Murphy warned on Twitter: “Four direct engagements with Syria/Iran/Russia in 45 days. Trump is quietly starting a new war that Congress has not declared. Red alert.”
In a sign of how complex the Syrian peace process has become, Russian-sponsored peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, are scheduled to resume on the same day – 10 July – as talks convened by the UN in Geneva.
UN Investigates US War Crimes for 300 Civilian Deaths
Every time Russia does anything in Syria that accidentally causes the deaths of civilians, the US plasters pictures of dead babies on the internet that soon go viral.
When the US is responsible for civilian deaths, even huge numbers of them, the US press responds with mass silence and US generals pooh-pooh everything as acceptable collateral damage.
US disregard for civilians is now so bad the UN in investigating.
UN war crimes investigators have denounced a “staggering loss of civilian life” caused by the US-backed campaign to reclaim Raqqa, the de facto capital of Islamic State.
The independent commission of inquiry tasked with investigating violations of international law, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria said the intensification of airstrikes by the US-led coalition had led to the deaths of at least 300 civilians in the city.
“We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,” Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the UN commission of inquiry, told the human rights council in Geneva.
Karen Abuzayd, an American commissioner on the independent panel, said: “We have documented the deaths caused by the coalition airstrikes only and we have about 300 deaths – 200 in one place, in al-Mansoura, one village.”
The civilian cost of the campaign was highlighted last week when footage emerged of coalition planes deploying white phosphorus in the city, which is home to tens of thousands of civilians, prisoners of war, enslaved Yazidi women, and a few thousand Isis militants.
Human Rights Watch urged the coalition separately on Wednesday to exercise great caution when using white phosphorus, saying it could cause “horrific and long-lasting harm” in crowded cities such as Raqqa, and that such powerful incendiary munitions should never be used in populated areas.
The use of white phosphorus drew strong condemnation last week, and raised concerns that the coalition was not taking adequate precautions to protect civilian lives.
Blatant US Hypocrisy
Somehow it is OK for the US to use phosphorous bombs but no one else can use any other chemicals. What a sorry joke.
The US is the biggest user and seller of weapons of mass destruction on the planet.
Here are a few questions to ponder.
- Of those 160,000 Syrians who were forced to flee the US assault, how many of them will now become ISIS sympathizers?
- How many others will simply want revenge?
- Of the rest, how many simply want the US to F off and get the hell out of their country?
Meanwhile, odds of direct US confrontation with Russia are very high and rising with the US, Russia, and Iran All Drawing New Red Lines.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock