Interventionism and Domestic Russia Hysteria Ratchet Up Syria Tensions

The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter jet; Russia responds by warning US planes could be considered air targets.



An American warplane "immediately" shot down a Syrian fighter jet that the U.S. military accused of dropping bombs "near" U.S.-backed fighters in a town in the Raqqa province "in accordance with the rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces," read a statement from the U.S. Central Command declares.

The incident was preceded by an attack by pro-government forces on some U.S.-backed rebels nearby, and it was followed by a statement from Russia that it would suspend cooperation with the U.S. over Syria and treat coalition aircraft as potential targets.

This escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Russia illustrates the dangers of wanton military intervention. The U.S.-led coalition in Syria is ostensibly focused on fighting ISIS, a terrorist organization that styles itself a caliphate. Yet the coalition acts independently of Russia, which was invited into Syria by the government, and it acts independently of countries like Iran, which have also been threatened by ISIS but are unwilling to follow the American line.

The U.S.-led coalition has taken a lot of pressure off regional powers, even though ISIS threatens their security and territorial integrity far more than it threatens America. The presence of Western countries in the coalition has also reduced the need for states in the region to try to set aside their differences and cooperate on their own.

America's toxic domestic climate when it comes to Russia has also made the situation in Syria more dangerous. Constant accusations of collusion between Moscow and the Donald Trump campaign have increased the political cost of cooperation with Russia. While Trump campaigned on improving relations with Russia, since assuming the presidency he has largely adopted the sorts of stances that Russia hawk Hillary Clinton might have been expected to take. Meanwhile, much of the mainstream media had an adulatory reaction to Trump's decision to bomb a Syrian airbase earlier this year—a response that taught Trump that "bold" military actions create strong political leaders.

It's hard not to wonder whether this weekend's confrontation was influenced by the president's desire to shake off those accusations of Russia collusion.

According to U.S. Central Command, pro-regime forces drove the rebels out of town. The coalition then "contacted its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established 'de-confliction line' to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing." It was after that, according to U.S. Central Command, that the Syrian plane dropped bombs near rebel forces and was subsequently shot down.

"This strike can be regarded as another act of defiance of international law by the United States," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to CNN. "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." Russia's Ministry of Defense now says it will consider any coalition jet west of the Euphrates a potential target.

The Euphrates runs, more or less, through the eastern portion of Syria. About two-thirds of the country—including Aleppo, its largest city, and Damascus, its capital—lie west of the Euphrates. The city of Raqqa, which ISIS claims as its capital, lies just north and east of the river.

The pilot of the Syrian fighter jet was able to eject from the plane, but his fate is presently unknown.

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  1. RE: Interventionism and Domestic Russia Hysteria Ratchet Up Syria Tensions
    The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter jet; Russia responds by warning US planes could be considered air targets.

    Can someone explain to me again why the American military is in the ME?
    Is it a military training exercise or an exercise in stupidity?
    I can’t figure out which one it is.

    1. Democracy building, stealing oil and resources, forward bases for future conflicts, bringing not-so-goodwill, killing the terrorists on their turf rather than our turf, keeping authoritarian regimes like Saudi Arabia in charge, getting the good seats for WWIII, being the stooges to protect Israel, destroying their old shit so they buy our new shit, making sure all our military equipment works….

      Take your pick.

      1. All good and worthy goals. I’d add expansion of our government and a nice handout to our military suppliers, who will kick some of that taxpayer money back to our elected officials via post-term speaking engagements and re-election funding.

      2. It’s not fair when there’s a booby prize behind every door.

    2. Without a US presence in the Gulf, you’re basically leaving the region’s future to the whims of tribes who have 1,000-year-old grievances to work out against each other. It will be the Sunni versus the Shia versus the Persians versus the Jews versus ever shitheel with a grudge against every other.

      If we leave, the Middle East WILL burn; it’s just a matter of when.

      1. And what’s different if we stay?

      2. you’re basically leaving the region’s future to the whims of tribes who have 1,000-year-old grievances to work out against each other.

        You know, in between where those tribes live are large modern cities with hundreds of thousands, and even millions of perfectly civilized residents who don’t need help governing themselves.

        Just sayin’.

      3. If we stay there will be trouble.
        If we go it will be double.
        So you gotta let us know.
        Should we stay or should we go?

      4. Sounds like with a US presence in the Gulf we’re just delaying the inevitable while we stupidly wait for them to turn into Westerners.

        1. Bingo. And they won’t. We’re the only adult at the global day care.

          1. Adult? You gotta be kidding me. If we were the adults, we wouldn’t be there.

      5. And?

  2. This is NOT how wars start or anything. /s

    This Syria intervention and the Yemen raid are the only big mistakes that Trump has made while in office. The neo-cons are for these interventions, so you got left and right not giving Trump too much flak on this. Otherwise, its TDS all the way down.

    1. Pffffft…when has a proxy war between superpowers ever turned into anything more serious?

    2. Yeah well they’re pretty freaking huge mistakes – if you can call something completely and totally expected a “mistake”.

  3. I have to say, how we are involving ourselves in Syria is the biggest disappointment of the Trump administration so far. Of course he espouses positions I don’t agree with. I have never claimed he was libertarian. But, on Syria, I really thought he got it. We don’t even need to cooperate with Russia. Just get the hell out and let them deal with it.

    1. I agree that this is a huge mistake of Trump’s. All I can hope for is that Trump was hoping to get to a quick end point and leave with honor.

      Trump does rely on experts to help him and in this case he relied on generals relating to Syria. The main problem is these generals are being tasked to fight political wars with both hands tied behind our backs over issues that cannot be solved by the USA.

      1. What ‘honor’, we’ve behave shamefully there. We inserted ourselves in order to tip the balance of this proxy war in favor of the Saudis against the Iranians. We inadvertently allied ourselves with ISIS, because they were the enemy of our proxy enemy.

        I too thought that Trump ‘got it’, when he insisted that our mission should only be in defeating ISIS and that we could work with the Russians on that endeavor. But, suddenly irresponsible people (including writers at this publication, who one would have hoped would know better) began pimping an anti-Russian hysteria that only served to benefit the pro-war interests. This whole incident has been disgraceful

        1. they were the enemy of our proxy enemy

          My head is spinning trying to untangle WTF is going on over there.

        2. Exactly. I get it. Putin isn’t exactly Thomas Jefferson. But, seriously, what is wrong with finding common ground against a group as awful as ISIS (and I understand that the Syrian govt is probably just as bad for the Syrian people. But not as bad for the rest of us as ISIS.) Or at the very least, stand back and let them do whatever it is they need to do.

          There is no compelling American interest in finding ourselves on the opposite side of Russia in this conflict.

      2. In addition, he shouldn’t be asking the generals which conflicts we should be involved in. They should come into play after the civilian government has decided which, if any, conflicts present an American interest. Once that is decided, we ask the generals what is the fastest way to destroy who it is we are fighting against. Then order them to “make it so”.

      3. Think about this dear fellow bloggers: If the US leaves to Russia will go the spoils which btw would also put Russia along with all of Israel’s other enemies right at the ONLY Democratic Gov’t. doorstep and what do you suppose will be the next crisis for not only the M.E.but possibly most of the whole world aka a full scale WWIII!! Do you think if Russia has free reign over there they’d stop with just Syria? This is Putin remember? Georgia, Ukraine, Syria and then…? Israel would def. be there grand prize and of course the US would be obliged to have full scale conflict with Russia and Russia’s allies and on and on it goes until the whole world is involved! Thoughts?

    2. If you have problems with Trump’s Syria policy you’re going to love his war with Iran.

  4. Yawn. This plot’s already been done, but in Nicaragua.

    Have you checked Discovery’s orbit lately?

    1. Have you checked Discovery’s orbit lately?

      It was retired in 2011.

      1. I thought they shut HAL 9000 down? (I know that was Discovery One, but what the hell!)

  5. Good thing Reason behaved responsibly and never indulged in those Russian fever dreams

    1. We have to “say nice things about Putin or we all die in nuclear holocaust”.

      1. Of course I’m being sarcastic, as Reason just started buying into all the anonymously sourced information that WaPo and NYT pushed out. Just read any tin-foiled hat article by Sullum.

        1. Look, it’s obvious that Putin helped Trump rig the election so that we could finally go to war with each other over Syria! Geez, it’s so simple!

          -Reason Magazine

  6. Any time you find yourself agreeing with the Weekly Standard on foreign policy- you have the wrong position of foreign policy. You would have thought some people will have learned this after Iraq, but here we are again

  7. The incident was preceded by an attack by pro-government forces on some U.S.-backed rebels nearby, and it was followed by a statement from Russia that it would suspend cooperation with the U.S. over Syria and treat coalition aircraft as potential targets.

    Is Donald Trump a Russian ally or not?

    1. See, he’s a Russian Pawn on even numbered days of the calendar, and an egomaniacal madman that is itching to start a nuclear war with Russia on odd numbered days. It’s not that complicated.


    $20 trillion in debt, FED run amuck, ssi/medicare/military spending will remain untouched.

    It is obviously so very easy to steer the populous.

  9. Well let’s see …. The US probably has a tremendous edge in technology and capability. But the Russians have the edge in not giving a shit about foreign opinion and having a domestic public who will cheer them on.

    If the US shoots down a Russian jet, there will be wailings and gnashing of teeth, congressional hearings, lots of blather. Russia won’t beable to do much about it.

    If Russia shoots down a US jet, they will get new sanctions, but they already have some, so nto much will change.

  10. And this was one of the things that worried me most about Hillary: that she would start a war with Russia in Syria. Thank God Trump was elected instead so that… Uh… So that… Fuck it, we need better candidates next election.

    1. Fuck it, we need better candidates next election.

      On this I think every sentient creature agrees.

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