Russian statement appears to implicate aircraft from two member states of the US led coalition in the air strike on the Syrian military base in Deir az-Zor
The argument over the air strike on the Syrian military base in Deir az-Zor has taken a strange and worrying turn.
The US has categorically denied that any of its aircraft were involved. It has admitted that its aircraft were in the area, but says that they carried out an air strike 55 km away.
The Russians say that is true. However, they also say that it is not the whole truth.
The Russians have not actually said it was these aircraft that carried out the air strike. However, they have pointed out that the US has failed to admit to the presence of these aircraft. They are asking why?
It is the broadest of hints, and it is difficult to believe that the Russians do not think that it was these aircraft that carried out the air strike.
This information - if it is true - begs a host of questions.
Firstly, the Syrian military base that was hit by the air strike was apparently the scene of a bitter battle between the Syrian military and the Islamic State.
It seems that shortly after the air strike - and most probably as a result of it - the Islamic State’s fighters were able to storm it.
Inevitably, that begs the question of whether the aircraft that carried out the air strike were providing air support to the fighters of the Islamic State.
On the face of it, it looks like they were. After all, if what happened was simply a mistake, it might have been expected that the US and its allies would say as much.
If so, it is an extremely serious and worrying development, suggesting that some members of the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition are actually in league with the Islamic State.
Secondly, Deir az-Zor is the area of Syria from which the Islamic State exports most of its oil.
Again, this inevitably begs the question of whether the Islamic State attack on the base - and the air strike seemingly carried out in support of it - was in some way connected to the illegal oil trade, and might have been intended to protect it.
Thirdly, there is the obvious question of which countries’ aircraft were involved.
The Russians are not identifying these countries - at least for the moment - though they obviously know or think they know which they are.
The one thing however that the Russians are saying is that the aircraft of more than one country was involved.
The Russians are also drawing attention to the US’ failure to admit to the presence of the aircraft of these countries, which strongly suggests that the US is protecting them, whichever countries they are.
Lastly, it is interesting that the Russians seem to be so well informed about this incident.
If the Russians do indeed know how many aircraft from the US-led coalition were flying at any one time over Der az-Zor, and can identify the countries they belong to, then the inescapable conclusion is that their surveillance and intelligence operation in Syria is very effective indeed.
This raises the interesting possibility that this sort of thing has not only happened before, but that it has been going on unreported for some time, and that the reason why the Russians made so much of this particular incident was so as to warn the US that with the Russian surveillance and intelligence operation in Syria now so good the US cannot get away with doing this sort of thing any longer.
If Russian reporting of this incident is intended as a warning to the US, then that might explain why the Russians have held back information about the identity of the countries whose aircraft were involved in this incident.
With the warning made, the Russians may feel that there is no reason to inflame the situation further by making public accusations against particular countries, whose governments would have no option but to dispute them.
As is now happening continuously with news coming out of Syria, Western governments and the Western media have pulled down a curtain of silence over this story.
This is scarcely surprising since any hint that any Western ally is in league with the Islamic State - even in the most informal sense - would after the Paris attacks be politically explosive.
In the case of Britain - if it was its aircraft that were involved - an attack on a Syrian military base would be in open defiance of the will of the British parliament.
The attempt to suppress information about this incident however in no way diminishes its importance.
The two coalitions supposedly fighting the Islamic State - the US-led coalition and the Russian-led coalition - have in the space of just two weeks twice fought each other - once when the SU24 was shot down, and now with the attack on the Syrian base.
On both occasions it was members of the US-led coalition that acted as the aggressors.
That makes it doubly important that as many people as possible are informed about this incident.
In the meantime it is a certainty that all sorts of angry conversations are going on about it at various levels between Moscow and Washington.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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