Five days ago the Russian Ministry of Defense said that on November 23rd in eastern Syria a US F-22 fighter prevented a pair of Russian ground attack jets from carrying out their mission (striking ISIS positions near the Euphrates river) as it “fired heat flares and released braking flaps, constantly maneuvering, to simulate a dogfight.”
The US categorically denied these accusations stating that there was “no truth to this allegation.”
That is very interesting because the Pentagon has now confirmed its fighters have now done exactly this.
A Pentagon spokesman has just said that on Wednesday a pair of US F-22 fighters confronted and threatened a pair of Russian Su-25 ground attack jets, in a bid to get them to turn westward and leave what the Pentagon calls “our airspace” to the east of Syria’s Euphrates river:
“The F-22s conducted multiple maneuvers to persuade the Su-25s to depart our de-conflicted airspace, including the release of chaff and flares in close proximity to the Russian aircraft and placing multiple calls on the emergency channel to convey to the Russian pilots that they needed to depart the area,” he [CENTCOM spokesman ] added.
Since nobody was shot down we can assume Russian ground attack jets turned back after US fighters got into their faces with flares. Insanely the Pentagon justifies its aggressive behavior by saying it is needed to prevent a situation where the US shoots down a Russian jet, which the US military has likewise already raised as a real possibility:
“The greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces,” said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, the spokesman for US Air Forces Central Command.
You would think all that is needed not to shoot down a plane, is to not shoot it down?
The US claims the delineation along the Euphrates is something that has been mutually agreed upon but the Russians have never publicly confirmed, accepted, or acknowledged that was the case. They have however, repeatedly publicly poured cold water on these imagined “de-confliction zones” US military claims for itself.
In all likelihood these are unilateral US claims, just like its kill zone around al-Tanf in southern Syria, that Russians will not legitimize by accepting publicly, but have nonetheless stayed clear of if possible since the alternative — given the aggressiveness of the US in enforcing them — is a slippery slope to WW3.
This has all changed, however, as the Russians cultivated their ties with the usually US-backed Kurdish YPG militia to the point the Russians are now also flying air support for them against the last ISIS holdouts to the east of the Euphrates.
Obviously this requires them to actually cross the river. The US isn’t acting this aggressively against the Russians who are helping out the same faction the Americans themselves are backing for the sake of “de-confliction”.* They are doing it to show everyone who is boss and to prevent themselves from being outmaneuvered by the Russians who threaten to lure away their only credible proxy force on the ground.
If they can frustrate Russian efforts to aid the YPG they will demonstrate to their Kurdish clients they have nothing to gain by building ties with the Russians who have now positioned themselves as the main mediators of the Syrian peace process.
*When the Americans and Russians were similarly competing to win Turkey over to their side and they both flew air support for the Turkish military in its invasion of ISIS-held al-Bab city in the north they managed to do this just fine and without incident without an US-exclusive “de-confliction” zone.
By Marko Marjanović
Source: Checkpoint Asia