Amid escalating tensions, both the US and Russia trade accusations of violating safety protocols in Syrian airspace, fueling the conflict further. In response to the situation, the US initiates a strategic maneuver by redeploying combat planes in the region.
A Pentagon official has revealed that the US is contemplating various military options in response to the Russian military presence in Syria. The US’s actions are driven by concerns over Russia’s increasingly perilous maneuvers in the Syrian skies.
Recent reports emerged of US Air Force commanders in Syria lodging complaints about Russian Su-35 fighter jets routinely engaging in provocative encounters with US MQ-9 Reaper drones in Syrian airspace.
Moreover, the Pentagon official disclosed that Russia is intensifying its collaborative military efforts with Syria and Iran to exert pressure on US forces and dislodge them from the region.
In a related development, Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov, the deputy director of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposition in Syria, highlighted that NATO warplanes have violated Syrian airspace on ten occasions in the past two days (12-13 July) alone.
Russia has maintained the Khmeimim airbase in Syria since August 2015, utilizing it for joint operations with the Syrian government against rebel factions, which primarily target fighters recognized by the West and those backed by Turkey.
Simultaneously, this presence serves as a crucial foundation for maintaining Russian forces and supporting the Syrian government. Apart from Khmeimim airbase, Russian warplanes and attack helicopters have made temporary deployments to various other facilities, including Qamishli airport in northeastern Syria.
Against the backdrop of escalating tensions in the region, the US Air Force announced in mid-June that it had dispatched an F-22 fifth-generation stealth fighter to a Middle Eastern airbase.
Military experts have suggested that it is highly probable the US aircraft was deployed at Muwaffaq Salti airbase in Jordan rather than Al Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The proximity of the Jordanian base to the Syrian battlefield likely influenced this decision.
Furthermore, political analysts speculate that one reason for this choice could be that the UAE government has disregarded US demands to sever ties with Syria, whereas Jordan maintains close links with Western nations.
In recent developments, the US Air Force deployed A-10 ground attack aircraft to the Gulf during the first week of July, followed by the deployment of F-16 fighters on July 14.
While US officials have stated that these moves are intended to serve as a “deterrence” against Iran, military experts suggest that the newly redeployed US weapons could also be involved in activities within Syria.
Since the conflict erupted in 2011, the US Army has deployed approximately 900 personnel to establish control over Syria’s oil-rich northwest regions. The revenue generated from oil extraction and sales is allocated to finance the ongoing US military presence. However, this action by the US is deemed a violation of Syria’s sovereignty, with both the Syrian government and the United Nations Security Council expressing opposition.
The US forces occupying Syria receive support from units of other NATO members, including Norwegian, French, and British special forces. Syria and its allies’ attempts to counter the illegal Western occupation have been met with significant retaliation due to the extensive network of US military bases across the region.
The appropriation of Syria’s oil by Western countries, coupled with sanctions and embargoes, has resulted in a severe energy shortage and limited resilience for the country after more than a decade of conflict, leaving it in increasingly difficult circumstances.