July 1, 2017

US Shoots Down Another Armed Drone- The Second Syrian Incident In 12 Days

According to the US military, forces located in southern Syria have shot down an armed drone belonging to Iran, which marks the second incident of the same occurrence in four days, an indication that Washington and Tehran are experiencing a collision between their agendas in the Syrian-Iraqi desert.

A US F-15 fighter jet fired ammunition at the drone early in the afternoon after observing that it was approaching and United States outposts where an anti-Isis local militia was performing a training exercise under the instruction of United States advisers near Al-Tanf, as reported by Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

“The F15 intercepted the armed UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] after it was observed advancing on coalition positions. It had ‘dirty wings’, meaning it was loaded with ordnance. The UAV did not make an attempt to divert,” Davis reports.

Similar Incidents Had Previously Occurred

Al-Tanf is the location of strategy located near the borders of Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. On June 8, a similar incident occurred in which an Iranian-operated drone of similar design dropped a bomb near American troops at the same training location prior to it being shot down by an American plane.

“We have said before that demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces towards coalition partner forces in Syria that are conducting legitimate counter-Isis operations in Syria, will not be tolerated,” Davis proclaimed. “We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than Isis but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if necessary.”

Russia made accusations that the American-led coalition of “complicity with terrorism”, and responded by shooting down the drone. “In Syria, this type of strike is akin to complicity with terrorism,” deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov explained to the news agency, Interfax.

And as Isis has removed itself from their known strongholds, and powers outside the group are competing for control of the vacant territory, the potential for a crisis to develop is rapidly gaining momentum.

Tensions Are Mounting Between U.S. And Russia

There are other areas that are experiencing a manifestation of tension. The United States reported on Tuesday that a fighter jet belonging to the Russians approached a US warplane, coming as close as 5 feet to the aircraft while flying over the Baltic Sea. According to US officials, the aircraft was armed and flying “erratically” that one incident is a part of a long pattern of close encounters as NATO, along with Russian forces, exercises that are of close proximity.

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, will is concerned that the recent incidents improved to be “very dangerous” and could be the precursor to a war escalation in Syria.

“I strongly hope that there will be a de-escalation of the situation because these kinds of incidents can be very dangerous in a conflict situation in which there are so many actors and in which the situation is so complex on the ground,” proclaimed Guterres.

Threats Heighten The Tension

While in Syria on Monday, Russian officials made an announcement that it had ceased a military hotline with American forces and made threats that they would shoot down coalition aircraft that coasts west of the Euphrates river, after a Syrian bomber was shot down by American troops because it was flying too close to an American-supported force that was moving in on the Isis bastion of Raqqa as they were situated in northern Syria.

Right before the Syrian bomber was shot down, US military officials claim that there was a regime of ground troops on the move, armed with artillery and tanks, headed towards two jurisdictions close to Raqqa that would be maintained by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

American warplanes conducted an expression of force, as reported by the Pentagon, in an attempt to warn off the threat, which included strafing runs in proximity of the regime lines.

At that time, the Syrian government Su-22 advanced in their direction, so the US plane tried to warm it off by shooting flares and conducting a “head butt manoeuvre”,  entailing the flying within close proximity of the threatening aircraft in order to jostle it by the wake of the jet engines.

As stated in a report by the Pentagon, the pilot of the Su-22 failed to react to the warning and proceeded to maneuver a dive meant to bomb SDF positions. After that, the US warplanes shut down the Syrian jet.

American Missions Continue With Uncertainty

On Monday, the US military asserted that there were no signs that the “deconfliction” channel had been halted, and that it was in their interest to diffuse tensions. On the following day, Tuesday, Davis reported that “We remain available on our end. I’ll leave it to the Russians to state their level of participation.”

A US air operations spokesman declared that operations were to continue, including those west of the Euphrates, with alterations to the flight plans and altitudes in an effort to “mitigate risk “.  Back in April, there was an occasion where Moscow made a declaration that it was closing the deconfliction line in order to respond to a US missile attack on the airbase in the Syrian regime, a channel that remained open and had continued in its normal operation.

On the other hand, because of the uncertainty concerning the deconfliction channel, Australia made the announcement that they would be suspending their flights that were a part of the coalition. “As a precautionary measure, Australian defense force strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased,” the Australian Department of Defense reported on Tuesday.

Pentagon Attempts To Identify Ownership Of The Drones

Shahed-129, the drone belonging to Iran that were shot down in the Syrian desert, are new additions to the substantial armory collection of drones belonging to Iran. The Pentagon declared that it was knots in the know as to who was the operator of the drones that were shot down in the last 14 days, but they did confirm that Iran gave both the Syria regime and Lebanese Shia militia, Hezbollah,  drones of these type to employ. But US officials also confirmed that it was known that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units were in the vicinity.

An expert on armaments of Iran, Galen Wright, who maintains Arkenzone, a blog particularly on the subject, commented that a runway was needed by the Shahed-129 in order for it to depart and arrive on land. “Even if its Syrian, Iraqi or Lebanese personnel pushing the buttons, IRGC personnel or advisors are almost certainly nearby,” Wright wrote. “Especially given that Shahed-129s are still relatively rare.”


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