The U.S.-led coalition bombed an area near the Deir al-Zor airport in eastern Syria on Saturday, killing between 62 and 90 Syrian army soldiers, with over 100 wounded. Washington claims it bombed the Syrian army by mistake, but as some analysts have pointed out, although circumstances on the ground in other parts of Syria are complicated with many different players active, this area of Syria only consisted of ISIS fighters and members of the Syrian army who had kept ISIS at bay near the airport. Given the detailed level of surveillance that the U.S. government is capable of, it strains credulity to think that they could make this kind of blunder.
In any event, the bombing of the Syrian army has had an effect that ISIS has been unable to achieve with offensive actions in the area over an extended period of time – strengthening their position around the airport.
Furthermore, the recent diplomatic deal reached by the U.S. and Russia required the grounding of the Syrian air force. If this is what the Syrian government gets for grounding its own air force in its own country – only to be bombed by a nation that is violating its sovereignty to begin with – it does not bode well for the overall deal.
Common Dreams News provided the following details on this latest crisis:
Early reporting indicated that between 62 and 90 Syrian troops may have been killed in the U.S.-led airstrikes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group with contacts across Syria, cited sources at the airport saying at least 90 Syrian soldiers had been killed and 120 wounded. Meanwhile, Anti-War.com‘s Jason Ditz described the massacre as perhaps “the single biggest blunder of the entire US war in Syria.”
A statement released by U.S. Central Command acknowledged that airstrikes had been carried out in the area claiming coalition aircraft believed they were targeting ISIS units, but said the bombing was “halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.”
The mass-casualty bombing comes less than a week after the start of a cease fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia whose stated purpose was to allow aid convoys to reach besieged areas while also separating various rebel factions in hopes that further progress could be made towards longer-term political negotiations.
According to Ditz’s analysis, the errant bombing and killing of 90 soldiers “during a ceasefire may not be the worst of the story, incredibly enough”—explaining:
Those troops had been defending the area from ISIS, who quickly overran what was left of the base’s defenses, and are now even closer to the Deir [Al-Zor] airport.
The airport has been one of the last major government holdouts in the Deir Ezzor capital, and at times the Syrian warplanes flying out of the airport were the only thing keeping ISIS from overrunning the entire eastern half of the country. The US airstrikes seriously softened up the defenses in the area, and might finally do what years of ISIS offensives couldn’t, put ISIS in control of the airport.
Experts who spoke to the New York Times also expressed worry about the diplomatic and on-the-ground implications of the attack:
Aaron David Miller, a Middle East analyst at the Wilson Center, said the episode was certain to make “an already complex situation more byzantine.” He said the strikes would “feed conspiracy theories that Washington is in league with ISIS,” as well as create a pretext for Mr. Assad to avoid his commitments under the cease-fire deal.
Mr. Miller added that the episode would create opportunities for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia “to blast the U.S. on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly,” the global meeting in New York starting this week.
In a statement from its foreign office, the Russian government reacted harshly to the U.S. attack, saying the airstrikes were “on the boundary between criminal negligence and direct connivance with Islamic State terrorists.”
The statement continued, “If this air strike was the result of a targeting error, it is a direct consequence of the U.S. side’s stubborn unwillingness to coordinate its action against terrorist groups on Syrian territory with Russia.
Russia called for an emergency closed session of the UN Security Council in response to the bombing. The Guardian reported the following on the meeting as well as the heated exchange of barbs by U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and the Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin:
The US and Russia on Saturday clashed at the United Nations over the bombing when the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, described Russia’s call for an emergency closed-door security council meeting over the incident a “stunt” that was “uniquely cynical and hypocritical”. She said Russia had for years blocked UN punitive measures against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for the barrel bombing of civilian populations in rebel-held cities.
“Since 2011, the Assad regime has been intentionally striking civilian targets with horrifying, predictable regularity … And yet in the face of none of these atrocities has Russia expressed outrage, nor has it demanded investigations, nor has it ever called for a Saturday night emergency consultation in the Security Council,” she said.
After the meeting went ahead, the Russian envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, declared that in his decades as a diplomat he had “never seen such an extraordinary display of American heavy-handedness as we are witnessing today” after the meeting went ahead.
He said that if Power’s actions were any indication of Washington’s possible reaction then the cease-fire agreement is “in serious trouble” but expressed hope the US would convince Moscow it was serious about finding a political solution in Syria and fighting terrorism.
Churkin said the timing of the US airstrike was “frankly suspicious” as it came two days before the US and Russia were supposed under the ceasefire agreement to begin joint planning for air operations against Isis and the former Nusra front, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, deemed to be terrorist groups by both states.
In another incident exposing Washington’s ludicrous policy in Syria, American special forces were chased out of a northern Syrian town by member of the so-called “Free Syria Army” – keep in mind, these are supposed to be the good guys according to Washington bobble-heads.
In Ukraine, a band of hooligans attacked the Russian embassy in an effort to prevent any Russian citizens from entering the embassy to cast votes for the parliamentary elections that were scheduled in Russia on Sunday. No one was hurt and there was no major damage as a result of the incident.
More from Press TV:
About 20 unidentified Ukrainians, wearing balaclavas, lobbed scores of fireworks at the embassy building during the early hours of Saturday. They chanted, “There will be no elections,” while holding a banner reading, “Fireworks today, Grad (multiple rocket launchers) tomorrow.”
No arrests or damage have been reported.
On Sunday, polling stations will open across Russia for local parliamentary elections, which are held every five years. Russia previously announced that its citizens in Kiev would also be able to cast their ballots at a polling station at its embassy as well as other diplomatic missions in Ukraine.
However, what most of all has angered the government in Kiev is Moscow’s decision to open polling stations in the Crimean Peninsula for the first time since it rejoined the Russian Federation in 2014. Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly rejected Moscow’s plan, saying they would not recognize such elections in Crimea.