WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – Early Sunday evening, a US fighter jet downed a Syrian plane that dropped bombs targeting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US partner force against the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria.
It was the first time in nearly 20 years a US pilot shot down a manned enemy aircraft, according to Military Times.
Some two hours earlier, “pro-Syrian regime forces,” as they were described in a statement from the US-led coalition, had attacked the SDF-held town of Ja’Din, south of al-Tabqa.
The attack wounded several SDF fighters and drove the US-backed force from the town, according to the statement.
After the attack, US authorities telephoned their Russian counterparts, using an “established ‘deconfliction line’ to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing,” the statement explains.
The Russians, however, were unable or unwilling to calm the situation.
At 6:43 p.m., a Syrian aircraft dropped bombs near SDF fighters, and an F/A-18 Super Hornet, launched from the George H. W. Bush aircraft carrier, shot the plane down.
Sunday’s events mark the fourth time in a month the US has engaged with pro-regime forces in Syria.
The first incident occurred on May 18. As the spokesman for the US-led coalition, Col. Ryan Dillon, described that exchange, “Pro-regime forces” adopted a menacing position within an established deconfliction zone near the town of al-Tanf, where the coalition trains Syrians to fight IS.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis described them as an “Iranian-directed” force, even as US authorities were unsure of its exact composition.
Dillon suggested they were Lebanese Hezbollah or Iraqi Shias.
The Shia media outlet AhlulBayt News Agency hinted at least part of the force was Iraqi, as it affirmed that “the Hashd al-Shaabi is coordinating with the Syrian army to free al-Tanf border town and region.”
Al-Tanf occupies a strategic position on the Baghdad-Damascus highway, close to the border crossing between Iraq and Syria.
It is becoming increasingly clear to US authorities that the exchanges around al-Tanf relate to Iranian efforts to take control over large swaths of eastern Syria, as IS is defeated there.
Iran would like to gain control of secure logistical routes from Tehran to Beirut for the transport of weapons and other material, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.
With the defeat of IS in sight, US authorities want to keep the focus on finishing that fight.
Hence, the US statement affirms, “The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces partnered with them.”
However, some of those forces may have other objectives, as Sunday’s military engagements suggest.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany