Things are heating up in the Middle East as United States fighters scrambled to protect their own military and coalition forces Friday from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s jets in the skies over Syria. And all this as Russian fighters continue to assist Assad against those he sees as rebels, according to multiple media reports.
As Cheryl Pellerin writes in her post for the Department of Defense, the U.S. fighters were scrambled over northeastern Syria “… after two Syrian air force SU-24 attack planes conducted strikes near Hasakah while coalition forces were conducting operations.”
Coalition forces are engaged in “Operation Inherent Resolve” per the story about the U.S. fighters being scrambled over at the DOD website. Pellerin also quoted Navy Capt. Jeff Davis on the issue of the fighter jets scrambling over Syria.
“It troubles us when we see …regime airstrikes in Hasakah in an area where it’s well known by everybody, to include the [Bashar al-Assad] regime, that the coalition is actively engaged in operations against [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant].”
Another statement given by Captain Davis on the issue of the U.S. fighters scrambling over Syria seems clear enough.
“We view instances that place coalition personnel at risk with the utmost seriousness, and we do have the inherent right of self-defense when U.S. forces are at risk.”
[SANA via AP]
US fighters scrambling or merely being in the vicinity is a concern on many people’s minds, of course. In a previous Inquisitr post on the fight, it had been reported that Russia has decided to use Hamadan Air Base in Iran. A Defense Department transcript of a speech given last month at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland by Secretary Ash Carter reveals more of what some have been missing on the battle over Syria and the Middle East.
“Our coalition’s military campaign plan, as you all know, has three objectives. The first is to destroy ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria. That’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient.”
Secretary Carter pointed to the attacks here in the States then, which allowed him to bring up the other two objectives.
“So we have a second objective also, which is to combat ISIL’s metastases everywhere they emerge around the world. And we have a third and very important mission, which is to help protect our homeland, along with law enforcement and intelligence officials.”
In a videoconference with media on Tuesday, regarding U.S. operations in Syria and Iraq which target the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the public affairs officer for Operation Inherent Resolve, Army Col. Christopher Garver, gave media another idea about the situation, as he explained “coalition operations” against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
[Russian Defence Ministry press service photo via AP]
“Okay. I understand everybody’s interested in this. And as I’ve mentioned several times before, I’m not a spokesperson for the Russian military. And so I’ll let them discuss their targets and what they hit and what they did when they were in Syria.”
But Garver did say that the Russians “did notify the coalition” that “they were coming through.”
“What I will say is the Russians did notify the coalition as per the Memorandum of Understanding for safety of flight. They activated that system, as we have in the past. They informed us they were coming through and we ensured safety of flight as those bombers passed through the area and toward their target and then when they passed out again.”
Regarding the targets bombed by the Russians, Col. Garver stated that one of the locations bombed, Deir ez-Zor, is a place where ISIL has been.
“ISIS is in Deir ez-Zor. We have struck targets ourselves in Deir ez-Zor.”
But the media asked about two other locations bombed: Aleppo and Idlib. Col. Garver answered first about Aleppo.
“We have not struck targets in Aleppo in a very long time. We have not struck targets in Idlib in a very long time, if we have at all. We don’t see concentrations of ISIS in those areas.”
Regarding an Iranian general named Qasim Soleimani being reported as ” on the ground around Mosul,” media wanted Garver to explain if “the U.S. military welcome his presence in helping retake the city?”
“I can’t confirm what Soleimani is doing,” said Col. Garver. “If he’s in the country or not, I’m not sure. What I can say is that the coalition works with the government of Iraq. If the government of Iraq chooses to bring in other advisers, that’s an issue for the government of Iraq.”
But there are Russian warships in the Mediterranean Sea as NBC News reports it. And on Friday they were firing cruise missiles near Aleppo.
So another point made by Col. Garver seems important, as it may be that more US fighters are sent scrambling in the future, if things get darker in the Middle East.
“We are not coordinating with the Iranians in any way. We’re not working with them in any way.
We are coordinating with the government of Iraq. And we’ve got 60 other nations that we’re coordinating in support of that fight.”
[U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner, Jr./Released]