This undated frame grab from video posted online Monday, May 29, 2017, by the Aamaq News Agency, a media arm of the Islamic State group, shows people inspecting damage from airstrikes and artillery shelling in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the IS. Airstrikes have intensified over the past days as U.S.-backed fighters have marched toward the city, getting closer to besieging it from all sides. (Aamaq News Agency via AP)

Random people pass through a typical Arab city. (Aamaq News Agency via AP)

As the war on ISIS approaches end-game (amazing how soon that happened once the Obama crew left the White House and Trump let the military get down to business rather than using the war on ISIS as a stalking horse for allowing Iran to expand its influence) a new war is shaping up between the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is an amalgam of al-Qaeda-lite militias and Kurdish forces of the YPG/YPJ, and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), also known as the regime’s army.

Last Saturday, the SDF was hit by a Russian/Syrian airstrike:

“At 3:30 am (0030 GMT) on September 16, 2017, our forces east of the Euphrates River were targeted by Russian and Syrian regime warplanes in the Al-Sinaaiya area,” the SDF said.

It said six of its fighters were wounded.

Al-Sinaaiya is an industrial area northeast of the city of Deir Ezzor, about seven kilometres (four miles) from the east bank of the Euphrates.

“At a time when the SDF’s brave forces are scoring great victories against IS in Raqa and Deir Ezzor… some parties are trying to create obstacles to our progress,” the statement said.

Now the Russians are claiming the SDF have shelled SAA positions and are talking of dire consequences:

Russia on Thursday raised the threat of a direct confrontation with U.S. forces in ­Syria, saying that it would target areas occupied by American units and U.S.-backed militias if its troops came under fire.

The warning was issued amid rising tensions in the Syrian desert between the United States and its Kurdish and Arab allies on the one hand, and Russia, the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed militias on the other, as both converge on territory held by the Islamic State in eastern Syria.

A Russian military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, had twice in recent days shelled Syrian government positions outside Deir al-Zour, a strategic city in the region.

Konashenkov said Russian special forces are helping Syrian government troops fight Islamic State militants in the battle for the city.

Moscow has conveyed to the U.S. military command “in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Konashenkov said in a statement. “Firing positions in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.”

As the kids say, “Bitch, please.”

The Russians have made a big showing of firing missiles into random swatches of desert:

But, in reality, Russia doesn’t have the military competence to retaliate in any meaningful way. But there is a very real danger of a needless conflict. There is American artillery firing in support of the SDF

And unlike Syrian artillery, we tend to hit what we shoot at. Russia has “special forces” (a word about Russian special forces, I’ve yet to talk to anyone who has been around them that came away impressed with their skill level) advising the SAA, one can infer from Konashenkov’s mewling that some Russians were killed or injured in that shelling. The wording of his statement seems to imply that he at least blames US artillery for the shelling.

Right now, CENTCOM staff and representatives of the Russian forces in Syria are meeting to sort out the mess and re-establish what had been fairly clear separation lines. But it is going to be difficult to do that with two hostile armies jockeying to secure the spoils of victory. (BTW, that Axios article in the link seems to think Obama is still president. The decision to suspend US-Russian military cooperation was a presidential one, there is no “ban” on cooperation to violate.)

Tags: Russia Syria