Two US military officials have responded to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defence which has been widely misreported by the mainstream media.
The section of the statement which speaks of Russia’s plans to respond to future illegal acts of aggression in Syria is as follows,
“In the areas of combat missions of Russian air fleet in Syrian skies, any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the (US-led) international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defence forces as air targets”.
Speaking for the Pentagon, Navy Captain Jeff Davis responded to the Russian statement saying,
“We are aware of the Russian statements.
We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened”.
This statement seems to imply that if the US feels threatened it could continue to attack Syrian or ostensibly Russian aircraft operating in a relatively close vicinity to US aircraft. Here too the terms relatively close are open to anyone’s interpretation, especially the US which tends to have liberal interpretations of just about everything, including geographical proximity.
The key element of this statement is the phrase, “if threatened”. This is an ambiguous term that could be used to justify attacks by US forces that could be reasonably viewed as disproportionate or downright aggressive. In all cases, such attacks on Syrian or allied forces IN SYRIA would be illegal according to international law.
America invoked the word ‘threatened’ to justify recent attacks on Syrian and allied military convoys in southern Syria near the illegal garrison the US has erected in At-Tanf.
In reality, these attacks were on convoys who were pursuing ISIS. The convoys were comprised of Syrians, moving within Syria and yet the United States felt that their garrison filled with their proxy jihadists was ‘threatened’.
The phrase ‘acting as though one is above the law’ is tailor made for such a scenario.
In each instance where the US attacked Syrian and allied convoys near At-Tanf, American officials stated that they had no desire to fire on Syrian troops, but paradoxically would do so if they felt threatened.
A similar sentiment was uttered in respect of America responding to the Russian Defence Ministry statement by 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 battlespace”.
This statement would appear to imply that American forces will try to avoid Russian and Syrian aircraft whilst continuing to pursue its own pro-Kurdish style of ‘fighting ISIS’, something which reflects an unspoken agreement between Russia and the US whereby the Syrian-Iranian-Russian sphere of influence will consist of Syria west of the Euphrates while the US and Kurds will essentially dominate/occupy Syrian regions east of the Euphrates.
As the Russian Defence Ministry Statement only said that Russia could shoot-down non-allied aircraft west of the Euphrates, the statements from both Russia and the US would both imply that the silent understanding has held, in spite of America’s illegal downing of a Syrian jet.
The details of this unspoken agreement was laid out in The Duran by Alexander Mercouris.
Turning back to remarks from Jeff Davis, he further stated,
“The coalition is always available to de-conflict with the Russians to ensure the safety of coalition aircrews and operations.
The de-confliction line has proven effective at mitigating strategic miscalculations and de-escalating tense situation”.
“We used the de-confliction line yesterday and remain open to using it. It has proven its worth in the past to tap down tension”.
Although Davis’s initial remarks may appear more strongly worded than Dillon’s, both men are essentially saying the same thing.
They are both saying that the US will re-position its aircraft aka, fly further away from where the Syrian led coalition (which includes Russia and Iran) operates while continuing to work with Russia to avoid further conflicts.
Reports based on these statements saying anything to the contrary are at best sensationalist and at worse fake news.
However, because Davis leaves open the possibility for America to still shoot at Syrian coalition aircraft(including Russian aircraft) if the US is “threatened”, there is something of an open page on what America is actually planning.
In reality, America is probably trying to save face. America cannot look like the junior super-power in Syria to the wider public. That being said, in spite of being far more aggressive than Russia in respect of military bombast, in terms of overall control of the situation in Syria and in terms of the wider geo-political situation surrounding Syria, America is the junior super-power. The master of events in Syria is Russia and this is the real reason America is both angry and afraid.