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U.S. Planes at Risk After Downing of Syrian Jet

U.S. forces shot down a Syrian jet yesterday, which prompted [1] a threat from Russia:

Russian officials on Monday threatened that their country would treat U.S.-led coalition planes in some parts of Syria as targets after the U.S. military shot down a Syrian Air Force jet on Sunday.

Russia’s defense ministry said planes flying in Syria, west of the Euphrates River, would be considered targets.

U.S. support for rebels in Syria was always likely to lead to clashes with the Syrian government and its patrons sooner or later. That is why it was an irresponsible and dangerous policy from the beginning. U.S. officials have talked about defending proxies against attack from the regime for years, but in the last few months this foolish position has been put to the test. It is possible that Russia might not use its air defenses against coalition planes in Syria, but there is now reason to fear that they might. Russia is also once again suspending the “de-confliction” process that has reduced the chances of accidents and collisions between Russian and U.S. forces. The risks to U.S. and allied pilots have just increased substantially, and the tacit permission that our planes have been given to operate against ISIS has evidently just been withdrawn. Through a mixture of foolish continuation of meddling in Syria and mindless increases of U.S. support for Syrian rebels, the Trump administration has carelessly created the conditions for escalation into a larger conflict with the Syrian government and its patrons, including Russia.

No one in Washington will care, but it is worth remembering that the U.S. has no authority to be engaged in hostilities anywhere in Syria, and our government certainly has no authority to attack Syrian government forces operating inside their own country in support for anti-regime insurgents. Obama had no right to expand the war on ISIS into Syria, and Trump has no right to involve us in a war with the Syrian government. Our Syria policy is unwise and divorced from U.S. security interests, and it is also illegal.

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22 Comments To "U.S. Planes at Risk After Downing of Syrian Jet"

#1 Comment By Somewhere East of Suez On June 19, 2017 @ 10:55 am

Another consequence of Trump abdicating responsibility for controlling military policy to Mattis. Mattis is stupid and out of control. Every time he’s been offered the choice so far he has opted for more commitment, more spending, more belligerence. He is dragging us deeper and deeper into the Middle East.

And Trump’s letting him do it, because Trump’s wants to shift responsibility (and blame). He’s more afraid of being criticized for not letting the military “finish the job” (as though “the job” can ever be finished) than he is repeating and spreading the staggering strategic blunders of Bush II and Obama. When the results emerge in the form of intensified war, new waves of terror attacks, and more trillions disappearing into the Middle East, he’ll blame Mattis for it and hire somebody else to take the next fall.

There seem to be no goals beyond “looking tough” and “standing with our allies”, and there is no strategy – but that’s hardly surprising, because there is no correlation whatsoever between Mattis’s panicked flailing half way around the world and our national interests.

#2 Comment By Kurt Gayle On June 19, 2017 @ 11:05 am

This US downing of a Syrian plane is unlikely to have been a Trump administration decision. It is more likely that the Pentagon – as in September, 2016 in order to stop the Obama administration’s increased cooperation with Russia in Syria – is now attempting to stop Trump administration cooperation with Russia in Syria.

#3 Comment By Doug On June 19, 2017 @ 11:19 am

@Kurt Gayle:

What makes you think Trump would disapprove of strikes against Syrian government forces, since he’s previously acknowledged he approved air strikes and has done nothing to stop this after two or three other publicly known strikes against Syrian government forces.

This is clearly and publicly US government, as in Trump Administration, policy with regards to Syria.

So much for keeping us out of the Middle East, if anyone really believed that lie when it was first told.

#4 Comment By sid_finster On June 19, 2017 @ 11:54 am

The Pentagon is intentionally trying to provoke a response from Syria and Russia in order to get their war.

As titular Commander in Chief, Trump could end this today. The question whether he has been turned or has no real authority to carry out his campaign promises is academic.

The buck has to stop somewhere.

#5 Comment By Kurt Gayle On June 19, 2017 @ 12:04 pm

@ Doug: President Trump has clearly stated on many occasions that he wants the US to cooperate more fully with Russia regarding Syria. With the exception of the ill-advised US Cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield — which he indeed approved — President Trump has again and again opposed escalating tensions with Russia in Syria. That having been said, I would be the first to acknowledge that rogue forces within the Pentagon and the American deep state show no sign of relenting in their efforts to block US-Russian cooperation. They show every sign of wanting to provoke US-Russian conflict and to draw the US militarily deeper into the Middle East quagmire.

#6 Comment By Doug On June 19, 2017 @ 12:29 pm

If Trump wants to fight the good fight against the ‘Deep State’ why doesn’t he do so? He is the Commander-in-Chief after all, and leader of the executive branch of the government, an office which is more powerful now than it has been at any point in American history.

And yet, I’m supposed to believe that Donald Trump is unable to stop the military that he commands from conducting strikes? Why wouldn’t he command they stand down? Why wouldnt he hold accountable those that he thinks are disobeying his orders, as you would have us believe. Has he given those orders? If not, why wouldn’t he?

Either he is totally uninterested in reining in the US military in Syria, or he is totally incompetent in doing so despite being clothed in such immense power that Abraham Lincoln could hardly conceive it.

Or he supports it, and all the talk about non-confrontation and non-intervention was just that, talk.

Which of those seems most likely based on the actions, as opposed to the words, of the Trump Administration so far?

#7 Comment By Kevin On June 19, 2017 @ 12:58 pm

“Another consequence of Trump abdicating responsibility for controlling military policy to Mattis. Mattis is stupid and out of control. Every time he’s been offered the choice so far he has opted for more commitment, more spending, more belligerence. He is dragging us deeper and deeper into the Middle East.

The extent to which Trump’s defenders here use excuses one a parent would be ashamed to defend a high school kid is extraordinary. “It’s not Trump, it’s Mattis! It’s not Trump, its Aipac! It’s not Trump, it’s the Democrats with their Russia investigation! Hillary and her emails!” Seriously guy, he is a seventy year old with the power to launch nuclear weapons, not a junior high kid who caught smoking in the high school restroom.

#8 Comment By Kevin On June 19, 2017 @ 1:02 pm

My apology to East of Suez: while I disagree with his comment because I think it is too lite on Trump, it’s not spin. My comment should have been aimed at Kurt Gayle’s acrobatics.

[And not that this nonsense needs disproving, but as a matter of public record, Trump made a significant shift from Obama, by delegating responsibility for tactical decision in Syria to the generals on the field. “The mean Pentagon is abusing the good tsar” is laughable in light of that decision.]

#9 Comment By rayray On June 19, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

@Kurt Gayle
Deep state schmeep state. Trump has literally no understanding of what’s going on in Syria. But he does like to bomb stuff. Because tough guy!

Mattis is a stellar military figure, fiercely intelligent, committed, experienced. That said, he is a military figure, with the narrow blinders that come from literally an entire lifetime spent in the military. This is why we have constitutionally baked in civilian control of the military.

But Trump is an ignorant, vain, and dimwitted man. Can you even begin to imagine how easy it is for Mattis to walk all over him…I mean…seriously…who among us would even trust Trump to order us a cheeseburger much less be commander in chief of the modern American military?

#10 Comment By Kurt Gayle On June 19, 2017 @ 2:44 pm

The most worrisome aspect of the US downing of the Syrian plane is reported today by RT News:

“The [Russian Defense] ministry emphasized that Russian warplanes were on a mission in Syrian airspace during the US-led coalition’s attack on the Syrian Su-22, while the coalition failed to use the communication line to prevent an incident.

“’The command of the coalition forces did not use the existing communication channel between the air commands of Al Udeid Airbase (in Qatar) and the Khmeimim Airbase to prevent incidents in Syrian airspace.’

“The ministry considers the move ’conscious failure to comply with the obligations under the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria,’ and is thus halting cooperation with the US within the memorandum framework as of June 19, the statement concluded.”


The failure of the US to notify the Russians at Khmeimim Airbase is exactly the type of failure that could lead to an incident between US and Russian warplanes.

#11 Comment By liberal On June 19, 2017 @ 3:41 pm

rayray wrote,

Mattis is a stellar military figure, fiercely intelligent, committed, experienced.

IIRC he also has a beef with Iran, perhaps because of the attack on the marine barracks in Beirut. While he’s clearly not as crazy as Trump and many others within and without the Trump administration, he’s still a dangerous man.

#12 Comment By SF Bay On June 19, 2017 @ 4:39 pm

“The Pentagon said the strike — which happened after the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly came under attack from forces in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad — complied with the “rules of engagement” and was in self-defense.”


Who do you believe? The Pentagon or Russia Today? In reality, it’s probably true that both sides are doing some lying. And, with Trump abdicating his authority as Commander in Chief, the military will do what they do best – plan and execute a war strategy.

Trump may think this will allow him to blame someone else when the poo hits the fan. What will happen is that he will be shown for the coward he is. And, he’ll be the one held responsible for the new war strategy anyway.

This is what happens when you elect someone with no interest in the job, who acts like a third grader. And to all appearances is a narcissist.

#13 Comment By jk On June 19, 2017 @ 4:39 pm

Before I get accused of the sin of being a Trumpeter, I’m not. I despise him and he’s an idiot or a nihilist in every sense politically, strategically, ethically, plain and simple.

But clintonite-neocons in the MSM, Congress, and his cabinet have pushed Trump to this place where he has to show he is not a “Russian puppet.”

Finally got the ever escalating (for the most stupid reasons) with a near peer power they were looking for. Trump did fail his electorate by succumbing to the omni-war caucus.

Here’s the state we are in:
-Trump is incompetent just because (agreed)

-Trump is Putin’s puppet by not fighting Syria or Russians (how do you reconcile this now?)

-Trump is incompetent for escalating in Syria and Russia (isn’t that what these McCarthyists want as payback for possibly releasing Podesta’s emails and fight for his honor?)

Toxic waste all around, not just Trump (though predominately). US has always been at war with West Asia to paraphrase Orwell.

#14 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 19, 2017 @ 4:45 pm

“The buck has to stop somewhere.”

No just sure if it stops anywhere, but it does disappear down the rabbit hole of the Deep State. What happens there is Top Secret.

#15 Comment By Jim in NH On June 19, 2017 @ 7:03 pm

I applaud Mr. Larison for stating the fact that the US presence in Syria is entirely illegal under international law. It is also not approved by Congress, and therefore illegal under US law. It is rather despicable that these not-so-insignificant facts are entirely devoid of mention in our so-called free press.

It is worth noting that Russia’s armed forces are fully entitled to engage in military action in support of the Syrian government under the UN Charter and international law.

Unfortunately Mr. Larison does not report on what the Syrian press asserts to have been the circumstances of this “coalition” attack on the Syrian Arab Air Force, because those claims would contribute one more piece of the puzzle that reveals the nature of the Syrian conflict.

Syrian press reports that the SU-22 was engaged in attacking a caravan of ISIS fighters and equipment fleeing Raqqah, heading to the south-southeast towards Der Ezzor. That same press, together with other intentional news agencies not located in the “West,” so presumably not “free press” or “real news”, have been reporting for months now that the “coalition” is pushing ISIS forces to the southwest from Mosul and southeast from Raqqah, leaving open wide gaps pointing in the general direction of the Syrian province of Der Ezzor, and the city of Der Ezzor that has been under complete encirclement and siege by ISIS for years now.

It is not unlike events of the fall of 2015, when Russia’s Air Force first became actively involved in Syria, bombing an ISIS oil tanker truck convoy that aerial reconnaissance showed “stretched over the horizon” shipping and selling stolen oil from Syria on to Iraq and onto Turkey according to Russia’s Pres. Putin in a press conference at the G-20 summit in Turkey. Oddly enough, the USAF bombed such an ISIS oil convoy only in the following days – for the first, and only time during the existence of ISIS. We couldn’t find them before, and haven’t since, just as we couldn’t’ see ISIS convoys when they magically emerged from the Arabian desert in brand new technicals to conquer broad swaths of Iraq and Syria.

And now we can’t seem to find ISIS’s columns of armed fighters fleeing Mosul and Raqqah towards Der Ezzor. But when the SyAAF finds them, we shoot down the Syrian jet, allowing ISIS fighters to continue on their merry path to martyrdom at the gates of Der Ezzor.

Not coincidentally, Syrian press also reports over the past several weeks that ISIS forces have intensified their efforts to conquer the loyalist bastion of Der Ezzor, putting more than 150,000 loyalist military and civilians at risk of defeat, capture and death.

Of course, Der Ezzor is also the scene of the first recognized USAF attack on Syrian armed forces some 6-8 months ago, when a “mistaken” attack against a vital defensive position by USAF jets, killing some 60-100 Syrian army soldiers, was followed up within minutes by a human wave attack by ISIS that seized the position that overlooked the Der Ezzor military airfield. That incident posed a grave risk to the Syrian defensive perimeter and impeded the use of the airfield until the position was recaptured.

If Russia’s leaders are of the same opinion – that US forces are now actively defending ISIS fighters from being attacked by Syrian armed forces in Syrian national territory – then it is no wonder why they are reacting as they have. And if the Russians shoot down an American fighter that Syria and Russia deems to be defending ISIS, then international law will not be on our side. Not that anyone in the West cares about such trivialities as international law.

These small pieces of the puzzle can be added to the litany of incidents that demonstrates that the US and its allies continue to undertake measures to support the “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria that Gen. Flynn’s DIA memo of August, 2012 revealed for the world to see, assuming the world is paying attention. The Wall Street Journal published another puzzle piece the other day, revealing that Israel has been funding and arming Salafist rebels in southwestern Syria for essentially the entire war. Whether Salafist ISIS, or Salafist al Nusra/Ahrar al Sham or any other alphabet soup named “moderate Syrian rebel” group, most of whom are not from Syria, the Western Powers continue their decade-long quest to overthrow the government of Syria at any cost, including actively supporting our Salafist proxy armies in Syria, thereby risking hot war between US and Russian military forces in the Middle East.

It is apparent that the Deep State apparatus remains loyal to itself and its Neocon allies, and are willing to go to war in Syria with Syria and its international allies who are legally entitled to support the duly constituted and elected government of the Syrian Arab Republic, regardless of what Candidate Trump said about stopping wars of regime change and draining the swamp if he were elected. After all, as Sen. Schumer said, the intelligence agencies in the swampland have “six ways from Sunday” to deal with those who buck the power of the Deep State. Assuming, of course, that Pres. Trump desires doing what Candidate Trump promised in that regard, and assumption I am no longer willing to make.

#16 Comment By Whine Merchant On June 19, 2017 @ 11:45 pm

Trump will get a rousing cheer from the Pentagon, which will get another round of cheers form his fans* on his next Victory Lap through the red states. Isn’t that what matters??

* Trump has fans, not supporters. Politicians have supporters; TV performers have fans.

#17 Comment By Kurt Gayle On June 20, 2017 @ 7:39 am

Australia, a member of the US Coalition that has intervened in Syria, is taking the new air-war situation very seriously:

Headline in the Guardian: “Australia suspends air missions over Syria amid US-Russia tensions” – “Move follows Moscow’s warning coalition planes west of Euphrates will be a potential target after US shot down Syrian fighter jet.”


#18 Comment By jk On June 20, 2017 @ 5:48 pm

Almost a Pavlovian response from the neocons: “Trump is looking presidential again”

#19 Comment By Skeptic On June 20, 2017 @ 5:48 pm

Look, Mr. Trump. The Deep State and the New York Times are never going to ‘like’ you anyway. No matter what. They will try to get you, no matter what. But you know what? It turns out it is not about winning — at least, not ‘winning’ in the usual sense, of getting pats on the back by the important people. The important thing is to be a hero in the moral, in the human sense. That is what history will remember–with praise — if you do the right thing, regardless of the cost.

And what is the right thing? In this case, it is going with your instincts while you were a candidate. Stop fighting these pointless wars in the Middle East. Cooperate with Russia and any other rational country that is willing to cooperate in taking down ISIS and al Nusra. Leave Assad in power. Talk to people who know the history of Syria in real depth, and learn from them. Be a man.

#20 Comment By Pete On June 20, 2017 @ 7:40 pm

To Jim NH, Very much appreciate your astute comments; would that Americans had just a little interest in where their trillions in taxes are spent, on unabating massacres of tiny nations. I am afraid they will not notice until nuclear winter sets in. To all, repent and reform your lives, the end is near.

#21 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 20, 2017 @ 10:45 pm

“I applaud Mr. Larison for stating the fact that the US presence in Syria is entirely illegal under international law. It is also not approved by Congress, and therefore illegal under US law . . .”

I found this very informative. it was revealing. But the over-archng issue remains. The US has no business in Syria.

The minutiae you describe reinforces the convoluted priorities, missions and agenda.

#22 Comment By rayray On June 21, 2017 @ 2:00 pm

“And what is the right thing? In this case, it is going with your instincts while you were a candidate.”

Hate to be the person that keeps pointing this out…but Trump’s instincts on the campaign trail were generally to say whatever he thought folks wanted to hear. Sometimes it was “I’ll get us out of wars”, sometimes it was “I’ll get us into wars and kick ass”. Every politician says what they think an audience wants to hear, in this case the vast and recurrent inconsistencies tell us that Trump has nothing else going on inside him but saying what people want to hear. Including, in this case, that he had “good instincts” on the campaign trail.