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US Provides Air Support to Syrian Army — Just to Spite Russia

The US bombed ISIS positions near Palmyra - assisting the Syrian advance, and sending a message to Russia

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

On Thursday, US-led coalition aircraft attacked ISIS positions near Palmyra—and directly in front of the advancing Syrian Army. 

The US was making a point—and sending a message to Russia. 

Recall: Moscow announced on Monday that it would "paint" all Coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates. 

But what can Russia really do if Coalition planes (without invitation) provide air support for the Syrian Army? 


Here's the report from CENTCOM:

SOUTHWEST ASIA — On June 22, Coalition military forces conducted 32 strikes consisting of 103 engagements against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

In Syria, Coalition military forces conducted 28 strikes consisting of 49 engagements against ISIS targets.
* Near Abu Kamal, seven strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed nine ISIS oil stills, four dump trucks, three cement mixers, three vehicles, three tactical vehicles, two cranes, a weapons cache, a pump jack, and a manifold.
* Near Dayr Az Zawr, one strike destroyed six ISIS oil stills.
* Near Palmyra, one strike destroyed four ISIS tunnel entrances.
* Near Raqqah, 19 strikes engaged 14 ISIS tactical units; destroyed 12 fighting positions, two vehicles, and an IED cache; and damaged an ISIS supply route.

The Palmyra strike is a true oddity. The rest of these strikes were either east of the Euphrates or in the Euphrates Valley—a thin strip of irrigated fields on each side of the river that's only a few kilometers wide. 

In other words: Coalition planes have, until now, been keeping their distance. 

But the Palmyra strike breaks the pattern. It wasn't just well west of the Euphrates—it was also right on top of the SAA advance against ISIS:

Blue bomb marks the US strike. Basically right on top of the SAA advance — and well west of the Euphrates

Here's the map zoomed out, for some context:

Coalition strikes have been east of or hugging the Euphrates. The strike in Palmyra was clearly meant to send a message.


The point that the Americans are trying to make is pretty clear: Will Russia protest Coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates that are targeting ISIS? 

Cynical? Of course.

The final takeaway: Russia will have a very difficult time trying to discourage US planes from flying where they please. 

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