Above: A map of Syria showing the location of Deir Ez Zor in the eastern part of the country closer to the Iraqi border, from which the Russian Ministry of Defense says U.S. jets came to bomb an SAA strongpoint in the city besieged by the Islamic State.
Since the RT video posted above was published hours ago, Washington has expressed 'regret' for what the Pentagon says was a strike made in error against what Air Force F-16 and A-10 pilots thought was an Islamic State target. However, given the close proximity between ISIS and SAA lines around the air base at the city of Deir Ez Zor, and the fact that the U.S.-Russian status agreement of last October as well as the newly minted ceasefire were supposed to lead to data sharing to prevent such 'incidents', the Russian Foreign Ministry is asking pointed questions. Both in public via statements by spokeswoman Maria Zakharova and behind closed doors during a United Nations Security Council session held Saturday night at Moscow's request. You can see some video of Amb. Churkin (father to RT correspondent Anastasia Churkina, incidentally) below:
This not so friendly fire occurred just days after Kerry and Lavrov labored for over a half day in talks behind closed doors in Geneva to reach a ceasefire deal under which Moscow foreswore any strikes on 'moderate rebel' positions. In return, the U.S. was required to delineate where the 'moderates' it supports are in Syria, and further urge them on pain of being bombed to physically separate themselves from the 'bad' jihadists who aren't protected by the ceasefire deal, including ISIS. We saw of course on Friday how well that has worked out so far, with the 'moderate' Free Syrian Army flag waving jihadists greeting American special forces in the town of Al-Rai with jeers and shouts of yalla (get out) and 'crusader infidel dogs/pigs'. Interestingly enough after reviewing the video of the insults heaped by the jihadists on their American sponsors' special forces, the Russia Analyst came across pro-Kurdish sources accounts of the Al-Rai incident. (the Arabic and Persian derived word rai ironically in Russian means a 'paradise').
According to these Twitter feeds led by @Agitpapa, Washington's NATO allies the Turks may have set the whole provocation up in order to send the Pentagon the message that Ankara, not Washington runs the show in the euphemistically named Operation Euphrates Shield. Whether or not the Al-Rai incident was a Turkish provocation and one that Pentagon hardliners would immediately suspect was calculated to embarrass them over their support of the 'moderate' FSA jihadists, what we do know is the following: less than 24 hours after the altercation in Al-Rai, Russian President Vladimir Putin complained that the U.S. was withholding details of the ceasefire agreement from the public because it would be clear to all that Washington was trying to protect the 'combat potential' of its proxies. Putin also said that Washington was not upholding its end of the ceasefire bargain to make the 'moderate' jihadists physically separate themselves from Al-Qaeda. We know that the U.S. State Department has also lied in claiming that Damascus was withholding aid convoys to jihadist controlled East Aleppo, when the jihadis have been shooting at the Castello Road which was supposed to be demilitarized for humanitarian purposes (and Moscow has the drone footage of Washington's pet jihadists shooting to prove it).
It was on Friday that Al-Rai International correspondent Elijah J. Magnier reported that Moscow had given Damascus the green light to shoot down Israeli Air Force drones and jets attacking Syrian troops trying to push Al-Qaeda linked jihadis out of the Syrian-held Golan Heights.
According to Syria Girl aka Australia-based activist Mimi Al Laham, the Syrian Army succeeded in shooting down one Israeli F-16 jet, whose pilot may have ejected before the wreckage came down on the IDF occupied portion of the Golan. Whether or not the IAF lost an F-16 to a Syrian S300 SAM as sites like Syrian Perspective claimed, the SAA clearly managed to shoot down an Israeli drone. And the Israelis' fears that Moscow could deploy its advanced Pantsir or even worse, S400 SAM and Krasukha-4 electronic warfare systems south of Damascus has forced the IAF to rely more on standoff missiles fired from Israel's air space to strike Syrian targets.
Tel Aviv's desire not to lose the IAF's reputation for invincibility in air to air combat maintained since 1982, as well as scuttling negotiations between Israeli firms and Gazprom over the Leviathian offshore field, have thus far allowed cooler heads to prevail on the hotline between Kheimmim and IAF command. But there have been other factors as well preventing any Russian-Israeli clashes in the skies over Damascus or Lebanon, above all Putin's desire not to give his enemies in Washington another 'let's you and him fight' scenario after Russia avoided war with Turkey last year following the (allegedly Langley and Gulenist orchestrated) shoot down of the SU-24.
While Russia's powerful long range S400 battery near the coastal city of Latakia is capable of engaging targets as far south as the southern suburbs of Damascus (which are after all less than an hour's drive from the Golan Heights demarcation line), it cannot fully protect the Syrian capitol from a determined Israeli air much less standoff missile assault. Pentagon and Israeli Air Force planners are well aware that without the RuAF bringing in more jets and tanker aircraft, the Russian Air Force contingent in Syria doesn't have the numbers to run continuous combat air patrols (CAP) over besieged Deir Ez Zor. Or at least, not without using other bases closer to Damascus or Homs and subject to 'moderate rebel' rocket fire to refuel. Hence the continuous probing and campaign of harassment on the part of the IAF, particularly after a Russian drone that may have been equipped with Moscow's battlefield 'off switch' flew through northern Israel's air space with impunity several weeks ago, defying three Israeli attempts to shoot it down with missiles launched from the air and ground.
Despite business-like relations between Bibi and Putin, Tel Aviv has clearly been testing the limits of Moscow's patience when it comes to strikes on SAA positions near Quneitra with nary a Hezbollah soldier in sight. Which makes the timing of the U.S. strike on Deir Ez Zor appear all the more coordinated with the Israelis campaign of harassing the SAA in support of takfiri terrorists. In other words, the worst (neocon globalist) elements inside the U.S. and Israeli militaries (the latter provoking the Syrians and Russians/Iranians two weeks ahead of Rosh Hashanah) appear to be cooperating to undermine the ceasefire in Syria before the American and Russian militaries can begin to implement it.
Less than 48 hours after the Pentagon and advocates of the 'moderate' Syria rebels had jihadist thrown rotten eggs splashed all over their faces, boom -- the USAF suddenly decides to bomb ISIS along the front lines of besieged Deir Ez Zor, far away from where U.S. special forces are operating and where there are no 'moderate' rebels, only the SAA and ISIS. Please note, that as part of the exhaustively negotiated ceasefire deal hammered out last week in Geneva, the U.S. also agreed to joint sharing of targeting data if not necessarily joint air strikes by American-led coalition and Russian Air Forces against the Islamic State and the re-branded Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria formerly known as Jabhat-al-Nusra.
The Russians are saying they received NO notification that the U.S. planned to carry out this strike against a supposed Islamic State target prior to the bombs dropping on Saturday September 17 between 17:00-17:50 Moscow time (16:00-16:50 Jerusalem/Tel Aviv time, after 1400 GMT in the UK). For you numerologists keeping score at home like @BanksterSlayer or W the Intelligence Insider, Saturday was another day of 'sevens' and 'sixes' like 07/16/2014 (and right around the full 'harvest moon' for the ancient Romans' seventh month in northern hemisphere, or two weeks before the lunar-phased Hebrew calendar's new year). Most obviously, the timing of this provocation falls on the day BEFORE Russians go to polls for their nationwide parliamentary elections on Sunday, September 18, which was also the motive behind Ukrainian thugs hurling firecrackers at the Russian Embassy in Kiev this weekend.
The Pentagon says it immediately ordered the two F-16s and two A-10s involved in the mission to withdraw upon the Russian command in Syria contacting them via a direct hotline set up last October. The State Department including the obnoxious Amb. Power claim the U.S. is investigating the incident. But as pro-Kurdish Twitter blogger @Agitpapa maintains, the signs that this was a deliberate act to sabotage the U.S.-Russia ceasefire deal are all there for anyone with two brain cells to see. And the most likely culprit in the chain of command when it comes to undermining the Obama Administration's stated (if unofficially sabotaged by both the DoD and CIA) directives to cooperate with the Russians on targeting ISIS/JaN is none other than Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend -- the same U.S. theater commander who shortly after taking over arranged for Kurdish units to attack the SAA's National Defense Forces (NDF) militia in the northeastern Syrian town of Hasakah.
We are not quite ready to embrace @Agitpapa's theory of a Seven Days in May type scenario where warmongering generals are undermining a president they regard as a weak sister's peace overtures to the Russians. But neither are we discounting the fact that Obama has little to no control over what large parts of the 4th branch of government aka the U.S. Deep State want to do. Regardless of exactly which individuals in the Pentagon and CIA were behind this provocation, what's clear at this hour is that ultimately Moscow, not Damascus was the target. And the intent of the war hawks is not merely to provoke some sort of U.S.-Russian confrontation ahead of the elections to spoil Trump's desire for rapprochement with Putin, but also to 'stretch' Russian resources and credibility with its Syrian and Iranian allies to their limits. Like Amb. Power, the Atlanticist neolibcons will do all of this while blaming Moscow and Damascus every step of the way for Syrians defending their country's sovereignty from a foreign-backed terrorist army hellbent on turning their ancient multi-confessional Syria into a hellhole like Afghanistan under the Taliban.
It's also clear that politicians like USAF veteran (how it pains me to type that phrase) Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) who used to brag about how much more accurate and professional U.S. bombing was in Syria than the Russians' 'dumb bomb' efforts no longer care about appearances, and will gladly plead to Pentagon errors in public while in private or in the company of their fellow neocons, expressing satisfaction that American bombs are now 'killing the butcher Assad's soldiers'. This is not unlike Washington expressing regret for the bombing of the Chinese Embassy to Serbia in 1999, while the DoD scuttlebutt among the B-2 pilots was 'like hell did we hit that target by mistake, well done'.
It appears this Sunday morning that certain factions of the U.S. and Israeli militaries are determined to keep prodding the SAA and by extension the Russians until they provoke a violent response. The goal seems to be to provoke the shoot down of an American jet bombing Syrians or even Russian advisers by 'Syrian' or 'Iranian' air defenses that Washington's warmongers will argue with some justification were manned by Russian personnel (particularly given the fact that Iran's S300 crews are not yet fully trained on their systems, even if they would be airlifted by the Russians into Syria). No doubt such scenarios have already been 'war-gamed' by the neocons desperate to salvage some sort of victory from the ashes of their defeated proxies incinerated by Russian bombs in the fields and rubble of southeast Aleppo.
Whether The Kremlin can avoid the trap that is being obviously set for Putin just in time for an October Surprise without appearing timid in the face of flagrant provocations remains to be seen. The most likely forms of Russian retaliation stronger than diplomatic protests are likely, as we have previously argued here at RogueMoney, to involve informational and asymmetrical warfare, rather than direct military action that plays into the 'aggressive Russian Bear' Narrative.
Ironically the only way to prevent Cold War 2.0 from going 'hot' to some extent in Syria may be to escalate the cold civil war already underway in Washington between the CIA with its Saudi/Qatar firster, pro-jihadist policies supported by the globalists and the patriots left inside the DIA or DoD (including any members of the military in the NSA who may have smoking gun SIGINT evidence of CIA collusion with ISIS). If the 'white hats' don't take further steps to expose the AlCIAeda traitors of Langley soon, the odds of a staged or provocateured confrontation between U.S. planes and Russian jets or air defense systems in Syria increase substantially.
Let me stress here that the Russia Analyst has zero, I repeat zero inside knowledge of what may be coming on that score (we stay in the OSINT realm and sleep soundly at night). Here we are making a prediction of a high probability based on what we've already seen reported by Seymour Hersh. That is, the bombshell reporting in December 2015 that the DoD undermined the CIA's 'moderate' rebel train and equip programs and indirectly passed intelligence to Assad through Israeli and German intermediaries. From now through Election Day, the best thing the alternative aka the real media can do is chase neocon Congressmen like Rep. Kinzinger or Sen. McInsane around D.C. with cameras and microphones Luke Rudkowski or Mark Dice style, calmly asking them what their constituents think of the 'moderate FSA rebels' they support in Syria threatening to kill American soldiers, and watch them run away to their waiting SUVs or call security. Any town hall meetings of the type 'ex' CIA and neocon presidential candidate Evan McMullin likes to hold would also present fine opportunities for such good ole' fashion ambush journalism.
For our part, we concur with W the Intelligence Insider and the Guerrilla's analysis that October 22-27 is likely to prove a pivotal week in geopolitics. The dirtiest parts of the American Deep State (or what my friend the Saker calls the 'Anglo-Zionist Empire') have clearly concluded the old 'glue horse' Hillary is not a winning mare, and are pushing ahead with plans for more chaos and tensions with Russia in this election season.