US downs Syr­ian jet...Rus­sia warns

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE -

BEIRUT, June 19, (RTRS): Rus­sia, Iran and the United States are draw­ing new red lines for each other in Syria, with Moscow warn­ing Wash­ing­ton on Mon­day it would treat any US-led coali­tion planes in its area of op­er­a­tions as po­ten­tial tar­gets af­ter the US air force downed a Syr­ian jet.

Ten­sions es­ca­lated on Sun­day as the US army brought down the jet near Raqqa and Iran launched mis­siles at Is­lamic State tar­gets in eastern Syria – the first time each state has car­ried out such ac­tions in the multi-sided Syr­ian war. A pro-Da­m­as­cus com­man­der said Tehran and Wash­ing­ton were draw­ing “red lines”.

Rus­sia, like Iran an ally of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad, is­sued a warn­ing of its own to the United States in re­sponse to the down­ing of the Syr­ian jet, say­ing on Mon­day it would view as tar­gets any planes fly­ing west of the Euphrates River, though it stopped short of say­ing it would shoot any down.

Re­treat

The in­ci­dents re­flect mount­ing com­pe­ti­tion for ar­eas of Syria where Is­lamic State (IS) in­sur­gents are in re­treat, leav­ing swathes of ter­ri­tory up for grabs and pos­ing the ques­tion of what comes next for US pol­icy that is shaped first and fore­most by the pri­or­ity of van­quish­ing the ji­hadists.

The United States said the Syr­ian army plane shot down on Sun­day had dropped bombs near fight­ers of the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed al­liance of Kur­dish and Arab fight­ers bat­tling to cap­ture the city of Raqqa from IS.

Rus­sia’s De­fence Min­istry re­sponded on Mon­day by sus­pend­ing co­op­er­a­tion with the United States aimed at avoid­ing air in­ci­dents over Syria, where the Rus­sian air force is bomb­ing in sup­port of As­sad’s cam­paigns against rebels and IS.

The Syr­ian army said the jet was shot down while fly­ing a mis­sion against Is­lamic State.

The SDF how­ever ac­cused the Syr­ian govern­ment on Mon­day of at­tack­ing its po­si­tions us­ing planes, ar­tillery and

tanks. “If the regime con­tin­ues at­tack­ing our po­si­tions in Raqqa prov­ince, we will be forced to re­tal­i­ate,” SDF spokesman Talal Silo said.

The Syr­ian govern­ment this month marched into Raqqa prov­ince from the west but had avoided con­flict with the US-backed SDF un­til the lat­est in­ci­dent.

“The SDF is get­ting big-headed,” said the pro-Da­m­as­cus mil­i­tary com­man­der, a non-Syr­ian who spoke to Reuters on con­di­tion of anonymity. “There could be prob­lems be­tween it and So­heil Has­san,” said the com­man­der, re­fer­ring to the Syr­ian of­fi­cer lead­ing the govern­ment of­fen­sive in Raqqa prov­ince.

The United States has said its re­cent ac­tions against Syr­ian govern­ment forces and al­lied mili­tia have been self-de­fen­sive in na­ture, aimed at stop­ping at­tacks on US-led coali­tion forces or their lo­cal al­lies.

These have in­cluded sev­eral air strikes against pro-govern­ment forces that have sought to ad­vance to­wards a US mil­i­tary base in south­east­ern Syria near the bor­der with Iraq, where the US mil­i­tary has been train­ing rebels to fight IS.

The area is of strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance to Tehran as it seeks to se­cure a land cor­ri­dor to its al­lies in Iraq, Syria and Le­banon and es­tab­lish a “Shi’ite cres­cent” of in­flu­ence that has long con­cerned US-al­lied states in the Mid­dle East.

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