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Russia Threatens To Attack US Special Forces In Syria If Provocations Continue
The Russian military will target areas in Syria occupied by American special forces and their local allies if Moscow’s troops come under fire from them again, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sept. 21, escalating tensions between the two countries as the relatively straightforward mission to destroy ISIS gives way to a far more complex international situation.
As ISIS strongholds continue to collapse across the region, a major showdown between U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government, which is supported by Russia and Iran, is appearing more and more likely.
The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, is considered a rebel group by the Syrian regime. SDF fighters have clashed with pro-government troops on multiple occasions since the American-led anti-ISIS campaign, called Operation Inherent Resolve, began. The U.S. military intervened several times on behalf of the SDF during some of those engagements.
Russia’s warning was issued as the SDF and the Syrian government converge on the former ISIS stronghold of Deir el-Zour from two different directions, bringing the two factions within miles of each other along a stretch of the Euphrates River where most of Syria’s oil is located. According to The Washington Post, the area is “viewed as a critical prize for all sides involved.”
The strategic value of the area has become increasingly evident since the battle to drive ISIS militants from Deir el-Zour began. Russian military spokesman Maj. General Igor Konashenkov said that Syrian troops working alongside Russian special forces outside the city have been shelled twice by the SDF, which is positioned on the eastern banks of the Euphrates with U.S. special forces, Reuters reports.
“A representative of the U.S. military command in Al Udeid (the U.S. operations center in Qatar) was told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Konashenkov said in a statement. “Firing positions in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.”
Russia has already demonstrated its willingness to shed American blood to protect its strategic interests in Syria. On Sept. 16, the U.S. claimed that Russian warplanes bombed an SDF position north of Deir el-Zour, allegedly near the position of a team of U.S. special operations forces. A military official told CNN that the Americans were “at most a couple of miles” away from the point of impact, and provided medical aid to their wounded Syrian allies. Moscow denied that it conducted the strike.
Two days after the alleged strike, Syrian government troops crossed to the eastern side of the Euphrates, which has served as an unofficial dividing line between the two coalitions. The SDF warned the Syrian army not to advance any further.
Whether or not the post-ISIS fight for control of Syria, which has been embroiled in a brutal civil war since 2011, will draw the U.S. into a direct military engagement with Russia and Iran remains to be seen, but Thursday’s warning seems to suggest that avoiding such an outcome will require commanders on both sides to exercise extreme restraint.
As The Washington Post notes, Iran, which is closely allied with Russia in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is determined to control the Syrian-Iraq border area near Deir el-Zour to “cement their arc of influence stretching from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut on the Mediterranean.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has set an additional goal in Syria: preventing Iran from expanding its influence into areas where ISIS is defeated, according to The Washington Post.
While the Pentagon says there are about 500 U.S. troops currently deployed to Syria — mostly special operations forces — the actual number is unknown and believed to be much higher. Soldiers deployed to the country for less than 18 months are not included in the official count.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.
(Reuters Health) - While army suicides have historically decreased during wartime, that trend appears to have reversed in recent decades, a new study of U.S. records finds.
Researchers poring over nearly 200 years of data found that unlike earlier times when there was a decline in suicide rates among U.S. Army soldiers during and just after wars, the rate has risen significantly since 2004, according to the report in JAMA Network Open.