Events have begun to spin out of control in Syria. Last week the Israelis lost an IAF F-16I Fighting Falcon. Though both the pilots were able to safely eject and survived. They came down in Israeli controlled territory. The Israelis, of course, responded to the downing of their F-16 with a large scale reprisal. This included shooting down an Iranian drone – based on the US drone the Iranians downed in 2011. So we can now confirm that actually happened.
— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) February 10, 2018
While this Israeli Vs Iranian in support of Syria and backed by Russia engagement was happening, the Syrian/Iranian/Russian coalition stepped up their attacks on Idlib and Ghouta.
Tiny and fragile, but crying out his worth, this little boy is a hard fought victory for the #WhiteHelmets in the non-stop bombing of #EasternGhouta. His cries of life are why they put their helmets on and go out and battle the insurmountable, day after day. #Douma today. pic.twitter.com/mASvssmhVb
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) February 9, 2018
The Turks lost a rotary wing (helicopter) craft last week as well. It was shot down by the US allied Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) near Afrin. Two Turkish Soldiers were killed.
Syrian Arab Armed Forces also conducted an attack against the US allied Kurds, which prompted a response from the US led coalition – Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF OIR):
— Inherent Resolve (@CJTFOIR) February 7, 2018
US Special Operations Forces (SOF) are currently stationed in Manbij in a train, advise, and assist mission to the YPG.
It has been reported that anywhere between 100 (the official-ish number) and 600 Russian contractors fighting in Syria were killed in the US Coalition strikes last week.
215 dead Russian mercs? That would've tripled the Wagner casualties during the Syrian campaign in a single day.
Not that I complain about dead Russians, but sounds unbelievable. https://t.co/j2dGycy0hW
— Petri Mäkelä (@pmakela1) February 11, 2018
— Petri Mäkelä (@pmakela1) February 11, 2018
While LTG Funk, Commander 1st Corps US Army and Combined Joint Task Force Inherent Resolve talked about deconfliction and deescalation in the CNN clip above, he has a battlespace that is becoming more and more complex by the day. There are a lot of moving pieces in his operating environment (OE): Kurdish militia forces being supported by US SOF, the Syrian Arab Army and Air Force, Russian contractors, Iran’s Qud’s Force, Hezbullah’s military wing in support of Syria and Iran, the Turkish military, and Israel. And don’t forget ISIS. They may have lost almost all of the territory they seized to form their caliphate, but they are by no means finished. That is a lot of deconfliction and deescalation!
Moreover, while all of this is going on, and the US is being sucked deeper into the mess that is the Syrian Civil War, Russia continues to expand its interests in the region. In November it struck a deal with Egypt for basing Russian Air Force planes. Just last week the Russians and the Sudanese (that’s the northern, Republic of Sudan of the Sudans) came to an agreement for Russian military support to train and modernize the Sudanese Army.
Finally, it is unclear what the official US response will be. While the US led coalition is sticking with its Kurdish allies in Syria, it is unclear what decision will be made in DC by the National Command Authority. The President’s predilection for Russian President Vladimir Putin has kept the new, Congressionally mandated sanctions from being imposed. And it appears that the decision to get rid of the Interagency produced, properly put together list of Russians to be named and shamed was made by a senior administration official, which lead to the rush job copy and paste from Forbes that was released.
A “name-and-shame” list of Russian oligarchs who made their money corruptly from their ties with Vladimir Putin was compiled by the US government agencies but then cancelled last week by a senior administration official, according to a Russia expert who was consulted on the list.
It was replaced by an all-inclusive list of rich Russians apparently copied straight from the Forbes magazine’s ranking of wealthy Russians, together with the names of some top Kremlin officials.
While the President has been very solicitous of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan even as Erdogan drags Turkey farther and farther into autocracy, he also warned the Turks against escalating against the US led coalition in Syria. The Turks have disputed the US account of this conversation.
U.S. President Donald Trump urged Turkey on Wednesday to curtail its military operation in Syria and warned it not to bring U.S. and Turkish forces into conflict, but a Turkish source said a White House readout did not accurately reflect the conversation.
“He urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties,” a White House statement said. “He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces.”
However, a Turkish source said the White House statement did not accurately reflect the content of their phone call.
“President Trump did not share any ‘concerns about escalating violence’ with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin,” the source said, referring to one comment in the White House summary of their conversation.“The two leaders’ discussion of Operation Olive Branch was limited to an exchange of views,” the source said.