The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) declared on June 18 that a Syrian army aircraft was shot down in the south of Tabqa city in Syria’s Raqqa province.
CENTCOM announced that the aircraft was shot down due to ‘self-defense’ in the town of Ja’Din in southern Raqqa. The statement claimed that the Syrian army had attacked Ja’Din which had been under the control of the YPG-led (The People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish militia in Syria) Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and had purged SDF from this region.
It is claimed that the US contacted Russia upon this development and then shot down the Syrian aircraft since it had bombed the SDF forces.
However, the Syrian army underlined that its aircraft was shot down while it was carrying out an operation against the Islamic State (IS).
WHO HAS CONTROL IN JA’DIN?
The biggest contradiction regarding the statement by the US is about the status of Ja’Din. Indeed, the allegation from pro-SDF forces that Ja’din had been seized by SDF from IS before the attack was not included in the US statement. Nevertheless, some pro-Damascus government sources had announced hours before the US statement that the town of Ja’din had been seized from IS via a video showing the Syrian troops in the town.
Just after the CENTCOM statement, pro-SDF sources aired news that the SDF units retook Ja’din after the US had shot down the Syrian aircraft. The Syrian sources, on the other hand, declared that the SDF units started attacks against the Syrian army positions in Ja’din after the aircraft had been shot down.
25 kilometres south of Raqqa, the town of Ja’Din is located 10 kilometres northwest of the town of Resafa, which is considered one of the most important obstacles to the Syrian Army’s operation that was launched in the east of Hama and Aleppo to reach the city of Deir ez-Zor.
Oil-rich fields such as al-Qadir, Dubaysan, Bishri and Fadih are located to the south and southeast of Ja’Din.
‘YPG TRIES TO STOP THE SYRIAN ARMY’
The YPG forces, which had reached the Tabqa Airbase in the northwest of Ja’Din on May 27, surprisingly headed to the further south instead of attempting to blockade IS completely in the centre of Raqqa.
Al Masdar News, a pro-Damascus government news source, set forth on June 18 that YPG had been trying to advance to Resafa before the US had shot down the Syrian aircraft. The sources claimed that YPG attempted to block the Syrian Army that aimed at reaching Deir ez-Zor and tried to seize the oil fields the Syrian government needed in the region.
SIMILARITIES WITH AL-TANF
The last move of the US in Raqqa has become a follow-up of the recently escalated aggression towards the Syrian army.
The US Army aimed at taking the control of the region from the eastern countryside of as-Suwayda province along the Syrian/Jordanian border up to al-Bukamal to the Iraqi border under the pretext of ‘fight against IS’ using the FSA forces from the operation centre in Jordan. According to this plan, the US Special Forces were located to al-Tanf, the Syrian door to Iraq, in order to provide support to FSA.
However, the Syrian Army and its ally Iraqi militia forces accomplished to reach the Iraqi border from 50 kilometres east of al-Tanf border crossing point and stopped the advance of FSA forces to al-Bukamal in spite of the two US attacks on May 18 and June 6.
Synchronically, the Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi forces seized the other side of the region from IS, where the Syrian Army reached the border. Hashd forces talked to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, stating that their operations would expand towards al-Qaim across al-Bukamal.
The US declared that long-ranged multiple launch rocket systems were deployed in al-Tanf after this partial failure, giving a signal to escalate the tension.
The US plan to allegedly ‘stop the Shia Crescent’ fell short in some other respects. Hence, the Hashd al-Shaabi forces that seized the IS-led Sinjar in western Mosul became the neighbour of Syria’s YPG-led region. It is stated that these operations will be extended to further south along the Iraqi/Syrian border as al-Qaim is designated as the final target.
Therefore, Syria and its allies aim at having the upper hand against the US-led force in advance of the battles of Deir ez-Zor where is considered as the final battlefield of IS.
Iran’s shooting of the IS targets in Deir ez-Zor via missiles fired 800 kilometres away just before the US shooting down of the Syrian aircraft on June 18 has come to the fore as yet another challenge of the Damascus-Tehran axis during the arm wrestling with the US.
DETAILS OF SHAYRAT
The base of the Syrian aircraft shot down by the US is highly demonstrative in showing the reasons for the escalating tension in southern Raqqa.
The aircraft took off from Shayrat Airbase that had been targeted by the US on April 6 under the pretext of ‘the use of chemical weapon’. The base targeted by the US fleet with 59 cruise missiles from offshore Crete is still in service.
10 days before the base was targeted, the Syrian sources stated that the Syrian army was going to launch a big operation to liberate Deir ez-Zor from the IS siege with the active support of Russia and Iran. The base in Homs was also providing air support to the Syrian army forces in Deir ez-Zor. Shayrat Airbase provides air support to the anti-IS operations of the Syrian army, a branch of which is starting from the eastern countryside of Hama and Aleppo as well as a second branch from Palmyra.
The US’ wave of direct aggression that began with Shayrat indeed aims at removing the control of the Damascus government in eastern Syria. Turned from ‘retreating IS’ into ‘stopping the Shia Crescent’ by the Washington administration, the most critical link of the operations is Deir ez-Zor,
As it can be remembered, the US jets ‘mistakenly’ bombed the Syrian army forces in this city in 2016, paving the way for the advance of IS. While Russia criticised the US-backed Raqqa operation since “IS militants are allowed to enter Deir ez-Zor”, IS that had lost its positions rapidly in the centre of Raqqa carried out 4 big attacks in the last 2 months in order to seize the Syrian army-controlled region in Deir ez-Zor.
‘THE SHIA CRESCENT’?
As the US media writes that Deir ez-Zor will witness the moment of truth, it is also argued that YPG will be mobilised for this goal after the Raqqa operation. The cooperation of Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran is the biggest support to these plans of Washington.
Moreover, the New York Times announced that the US aimed at creating a Sunni region from eastern Syria to the west of Baghdad under the auspices of Saudi Arabia while the tension in al-Tanf was continuing.
At this point, it is striking that PYD (the Kurdish Democratic Union Party) makes statements showing that it also wants to participate in the Saudi-led coalition. While PYD leader Saleh Müslim told the Saudi Arabia media last week that “We are opposing the governments of Iran and Syria”, the YPG authorities often state, “The Shia forces pose a threat to Rojava”.
For this very reason, PYD co-chair Saleh Müslim evaluated the attack on Shayrat base, which was a signal flare of the US’ new wave of aggression towards Iran, as it would “lead to positive results”. However, Saleh Müslim himself regarded the opponents as the responsible for the chemical weapon attack that had taken part in Damascus in 2013.
Hence, this attack became the milestone of the plan to “disintegrate Syria under the pretext of the fight against IS”, which Trump took over from Obama. The Obama administration discussed over a direct intervention in Syria after this attack, and the plan of a “regime change in Syria with a direct US army intervention” that had been put aside due to objections from Obama and the then-US Chief of Staff Martin Dempsey was replaced with a plan “to retreat IS” as being announced by Obama in September in that year.
While the first part of this plan is the FSA militants who are trained by the CIA in Jordan and used now in al-Tanf, the second part has become YPG that takes the full support of the US Secretary of Defense.