Neoconservative foreign policy has slithered into the Trump administration, making voters wonder if President Trump had always planned to escalate U.S. involvement in Syria’s devastating civil war. According to CNN, the Russian government condemns the U.S. downing of a Syrian warplane and referred to it as an “act of aggression”:
Moscow (CNN)A day after a US Navy fighter jet shot down a Syrian warplane, Russia says it has stopped using a key communication channel set up to avoid conflict between US and Russian forces in Syria...
US downing of plane an "act of aggression"
The US military said that it shot down a warplane that had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) fighters. SDF forces are backed by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.Related: Iran launches missiles into eastern Syria, targets ISISIt's the first time the US has shot down a Syrian aircraft since it began fighting ISIS in the country in 2014.
"This strike can be regarded as another act of defiance of international law by the United States," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Monday, according to Russia's state-run news agency Tass. "What was it, if not an act of aggression? It was also an act of assistance to those terrorists whom the United States is ostensibly fighting against."
"Considered air targets," Russia says
The Russian Ministry of Defense called the downing of the plane "a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic" and "military aggression." It also demanded an investigation by US command.Further, the ministry's statement declares that west of the Euphrates River, Russian aircraft will escort any aircraft and unmanned vehicles."From now on, in areas where Russian aviation performs combat missions in the skies of Syria, any air-born objects found west of the Euphrates River, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles belonging to the international coalition, tracked by means of Russian land and air anti-aircraft defense, will be considered air targets," the statement reads.The US military is prohibited by law from coordinating directly with the Russian military, but given the increased pace and scale of military operations in Syria, the US and Russia have sought ways to ensure that their respective personnel are not targeted by mistake, setting up a series of so-called "de-confliction zones" that delineate areas of operation for the coalition and the Russian forces.
Potential threat escalates
Coalition forces released a response within hours of the Kremlin statements."As a result of recent encounters involving pro Syrian regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrews given known threats in the battle space," coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon tells CNN."We are continuing to conduct operations throughout Syria targeting ISIS forces and providing air support for coalition forces and our partner forces on the ground," Dillon says. "We as a coalition are always ready to deconflict."A defense official tells CNN the belief is the potential threat has escalated given recent encounters with pro-regime forces near At Tanf, as well as the downing of the Syrian aircraft.
Although few pundits, analysts, or American citizens can explain how Syria’s civil war directly relates to U.S. national security, or even how removing Assad would prevent future acts of terrorism (regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in an exponential increase of global terrorism) Trump has continued the Obama/Clinton policy of opposing Russia in Syria.
This neoconservative-inspired objective of removing Assad has always been championed by leading Democrats like Clinton and Obama, as stated in a Huffington Post article by Jeffrey Sachs titled Hillary Clinton and the Syrian Bloodbath:
In 2012, Clinton was the obstacle, not the solution, to a ceasefire being negotiated by UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan. It was US intransigence - Clinton’s intransigence - that led to the failure of Annan’s peace efforts in the spring of 2012, a point well known among diplomats. Despite Clinton’s insinuation in the Milwaukee debate, there was (of course) no 2012 ceasefire, only escalating carnage. Clinton bears heavy responsibility for that carnage, which has by now displaced more than 10 million Syrians and left more than 250,000 dead.
As every knowledgeable observer understands, the Syrian War is not mostly about Bashar al-Assad, or even about Syria itself. It is mostly a proxy war, about Iran. And the bloodbath is doubly tragic and misguided for that reason.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the leading Sunni powers in the Middle East, view Iran, the leading Shia power, as a regional rival for power and influence. Right-wing Israelis view Iran as an implacable foe that controls Hezbollah, a Shi’a militant group operating in Lebanon, a border state of Israel. Thus, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel have all clamored to remove Iran’s influence in Syria.
This idea is incredibly naïve. Iran has been around as a regional power for a long time—in fact, for about 2,700 years. And Shia Islam is not going away. There is no way, and no reason, to “defeat” Iran. The regional powers need to forge a geopolitical equilibrium that recognizes the mutual and balancing roles of the Gulf Arabs, Turkey, and Iran. And Israeli right-wingers are naïve, and deeply ignorant of history, to regard Iran as their implacable foe, especially when that mistaken view pushes Israel to side with Sunni jihadists.
Yet Clinton did not pursue that route. Instead she joined Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and right-wing Israelis to try to isolate, even defeat, Iran. In 2010, she supported secret negotiations between Israel and Syria to attempt to wrest Syria from Iran’s influence. Those talks failed. Then the CIA and Clinton pressed successfully for Plan B: to overthrow Assad.
When the unrest of the Arab Spring broke out in early 2011, the CIA and the anti-Iran front of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey saw an opportunity to topple Assad quickly and thereby to gain a geopolitical victory. Clinton became the leading proponent of the CIA-led effort at Syrian regime change.
In early 2011, Turkey and Saudi Arabia leveraged local protests against Assad to try to foment conditions for his ouster. By the spring of 2011, the CIA and the US allies were organizing an armed insurrection against the regime. On August 18, 2011, the US Government made public its position: “Assad must go.”
Since then and until the recent fragile UN Security Council accord, the US has refused to agree to any ceasefire unless Assad is first deposed. The US policy—under Clinton and until recently—has been: regime change first, ceasefire after. After all, it’s only Syrians who are dying.
Thus, Trump is continuing the dangerously flawed policies of Secretary Clinton and President Obama, despite promising an end to regime change.
In addition, the downing of a Syrian warplane by the U.S. could easily lead to a Cuban Missile Crisis scenario where Putin and Russia must take drastic steps to ensure Assad’s survival. Their interest in Syria far outweighs the U.S. desire to oust Assad and it’s widely recognized that Russia views any direct act against the Assad regime as violating it’s own national security. Russia has a long history with Syria, and Syria is one of the few states in the Middle East openly aligned with Russia. With President Trump sending 4,000 more Americans to Afghanistan, the U.S. is again doubling-down on failed regime change, as well as trying to win counter-insurgency wars that greater powers always lose.
If the notion of World War Three seem like hyperbole, just analyze a recent National Interest piece outlining Russia’s current nuclear strategy:
Where’s the real danger?
In sum, the outlook for Russia’s nuclear forces is less important than the serious improvements Russia is seeking to make in its conventional forces, especially in Europe. The Russians have relied on nuclear arms to compensate for conventional weakness, a practice even Moscow realizes is unsustainable and dangerous. The real threat to NATO will occur if Western military forces on the ground continue to be hollowed out by budget cuts and a lack of purpose, while Russian forces continue to improve and to recover from the disarray of the Soviet collapse.
Another downed Syrian plane, or another indirect assault on Russian national security could force Putin to threaten a nuclear response. Whether or not he’d be bluffing, or simply engaging in a North Korean-like diatribe aimed at perpetuating the threat of nuclear attack, is irrelevant. Russia doesn’t stand a chance against the U.S. in terms of conventional warfare. Their interests in Syria far surpass U.S. interests. They’d be willing to show the world that U.S. foreign policy can’t always be achieved through a conventional military response, thus leaving the U.S. with another Cuban Missile-type scenario. If this happens, we’d be left with Clinton neocons and the Trump administration; not exactly the wisdom of JFK.
Is removing Assad worth cornering Putin into a nuclear confrontation, or threat of nuclear retaliation? We’ve seen this before and history repeats itself when great powers ignore the lessons of the past. Few Americans can even name Syria’s capitol, much less explain exactly how removing Assad keeps them safe from terrorism. Not only would further escalation, even in the best case scenario according to U.S. pundits (the removal of Assad) lead to another failed regime change, but it ultimately would lead to the largest nuclear arsenals being pitted once again against each other. We’ve already learned the lessons of the Cold War. Trump, and Democrats, must ensure the world doesn’t descend into another cataclysmic nuclear standoff. Journalist Caitlin Johnstone explains the repercussions of provoking Russia in a brilliant Counter Propa piece titled US Continues To Attack Syria In ‘Self Defense’ To Provoke Assad Retaliation.