Top American military brass confirmed to Military.com that Russian surface-to-air missiles are tracking American aircraft in Syria after a recent declaration by Russia that any American aircraft west of the Euphrates River would be treated as targets.
The situation was borne out of the downing of a hostile Syrian Sukhoi Su-22 by an American F/A-18E Hornet on June 18 over Taqbah in Syria. The shootdown was the first air-to-air kill by a manned American military aircraft in almost two decades.
Russia’s defense ministry acted strongly in the wake of the shootdown. According to The Daily Caller, Moscow insisted the Su-22 wasn’t a threat but was carrying out raids supporting pro-regime forces fighting the Islamic State group.
“Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets,” the defense ministry said after the shootdown.
In a wide-ranging piece on the shootdown at Military.com, Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran acknowledged that Russian surface-to-air missiles were currently tracking American aircraft.
“SAMs turn on, but as far as feeling threatened — I don’t think our forces have felt threatened by Russians or Syrians in the surface-to-air missile perspective,” he said. However, he also said the relationship between Russian and American forces “has been maintained, and it’s in good shape — it’s very cordial, professional. We haven’t seen or heard any of that from them.”
Corcoran said the situation on the ground in Syria was “constantly in flux.”
Unlike in Iraq, where leaders “asked us to come help them … we don’t have exclusive control of the skies above the ground … We have it above the ground where our guys are, but not an inch beyond — it’s surreal.
“We’re fighting an enemy — ISIS — in another country — Syria — where there’s also an insurgency going on, but we’re not really invited to be” a part of that, he said. “But we can’t leave it to the Syrians to get rid of ISIS, because that wasn’t working, right? So it’s really an odd place to be,” Corcoran said. “We know … we’re going to defeat ISIS. Their days are numbered. What next?”
Hopefully, what’s next isn’t armed conflict with Russia. Obviously, the Trump administration needs to respond in some manner to this needless provocation by Putin’s regime. However, the first item of business is defeating the Islamic State group and securing Syria. Using the country as a Balkanized battleground for a low-level proxy war is only going to make the security situation on the ground deterioriate — which is exactly what the Islamic State group wants.
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H/T The Daily Caller