Dangerous Crossroads Towards Military Escalation? United States Downs Syrian SU-22 Warplane


The situation escalates in Syria following the U.S. aviation attack against an Su-22 belonging to the country’s national air force.
On Sunday, June18, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 warplane near Ja’Din in the western part of the province of Raqqah, Syria. Ja’Din is located in the area south of the town of Tabqah controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The Su-22 was supporting the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) advance towards the ISIS-held town of Resafa, located at the Ithriyah-Resafa-Raqqa road.
“At 6:43pm, a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah and, in accordance with rules of engagement and collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet,” the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement on the issue.
In turn, the Syrian Defense Ministry said that the attack was an attempt to undermine the SAA effort against ISIS.
The U.S. attack came amid the rapid SAA advance in the Resafa area. With the liberation of Resafa, the SAA controls one of the important roads heading to Deir Ezzor besieged by ISIS terrorists. In this case, the U.S. move is another attempt to draw red lines for the internationally recognized government of Syria. Washington sees successful SAA operations against ISIS as a threat to the U.S. influence in the war-torn country.
Following the incident, the Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched medium-range ground-to-ground missiles at ISIS targets in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. According to the IRGC, the missiles were launched from the western Iranian provinces of Kermanshah and Kordestan, flew through Iraq’s airspace and hit terrorists targets in Syria. Iran reportedly used Zolfaqar missiles.
The IRGC statement said that the missile strike was a response to the recent ISIS-claimed terrorist attack in Tehran. However, it’s clear that this missile strike was a message to the U.S.-led coalition and U.S.-backed forces in Syria. The missile strike shows that Iran is capable to conduct a missile strike on joint garrisons of the U.S.-led coalition forces and U.S.-backed militant groups located near the villages of At Tanf and al-Zquf at the border with Iraq.
Meanwhile, according to some sources, sporadic firefights appeared between the SAA and the SDF south of Tabqah, after the SDF had opposed government forces’ attempt to conduct a pilot rescue operation in the area.
Reports also appeared that U.S.-led coalition forces are setting up a military facility in the town of Tabqah. U.S. forces are reportedly aiming to build a command center and residential buildings for its troops. According to opposition sources, the U.S. wants to adopt the new base as a long-term base in Syria.
Despite tensions with the U.S.-led coalition, the SAA continued operations against ISIS in the eastern Hama countryside where government forces liberated Jab al-Saad, Rasm Amoun, Hanita and Hassou al-‘Albawi and continued advancing with aim to shorten the frontline in the area.
The recent events show that the U.S. and its allies lost a tactical initiative in the conflict and now they are attempting to stop or prevent expected ongoing SAA operations in the provinces of Raqqah and Deir Ezzor, and along the border with Iraq.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that the US move may be considered an “act of aggression,” and announced that it is halting all interactions with the US within the framework on the memorandum of incident prevention in Syrian skies.
Now, Russian missile defenses will track any US-led coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates River.
“In areas where Russian aviation is conducting combat missions in the Syrian skies, any flying objects, including jets and unmanned aerial vehicles of the international coalition discovered west of the Euphrates River will be followed by Russian air and ground defenses as air targets,” the ministry announced.
At the same time, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also joined the blame game by attempting to justify the act of aggression.
SDF Spokesman, Talal Selo, announced that Syrian government forces “have mounted large-scale attacks using planes, artillery, and tanks” against the SDF in the province of Raqqah. Selo threatened the Syrian Army with retaliation if government forces attack the SDF again. However, the SDF representative was not able to provide any info about these “large-scale attacks.” Furthermore, no local sources reported such attacks in recent days, reducing the claim to mere propaganda on the part of the US-led campaign against Damascus.
Meanwhile, SDF units reportedly killed about 10 ISIS members and destroyed 2 ISIS vehicles.
The Syrian army and its allies launched attacks against ISIS from Ithriyah in the direction of Resafa, aiming to clear the road linking these [two] towns.
If government troops link up with their allies south of Tabqah, they will strengthen positions of army troops in the western part of Raqqah province. This will allow the clearing of area east of Khansir from the vestiges of ISIS forces in order to boost security of the strategic Ithriyah-Khanasir-Aleppo road.
In the Palmyra countryside, government forces attacked ISIS positions east of the T3 pumping station and near the Arak area. Heavy clashes are ongoing. ISIS terrorists are attempting to prevent the progress of government forces towards Deir Ezzor.