Australia says to resume air strikes in Syria after Russia threat

Frederick Owens
June 22, 2017

Tuesday's suspension was taken to allow coalition forces to assess the operational risk of air strikes, defence said, as US-backed forces seek to take back the city of Raqqa.

Another Iranian drone was brought down in southern Syria on June 9, while two days ago the USA military shot down a Syrian jet conducting a bombing raid close to positions held by US-allied forces around Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State's so-called "caliphate". Russian Federation backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Iran also supports, while the USA -led coalition is aligned with groups that oppose the Assad regime and ISIS.

The US military said it had shot down an armed, Iranian-made drone that had been bearing down on its forces near a garrison in Syria's south-east on Tuesday, in the latest sign of increasingly frequent confrontation with Damascus and its allies.

Russian Federation condemned the USA action and in retaliation suspended a hotline meant to prevent such incidents.

The U.S. has maintained its broadening military involvement in Syria is part of the global fight against ISIS, and has avoided engaging directly with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the larger civil war playing out in Syria.

Syrian state television, quoting army sources, said they had resumed the offensive, which took place as U.S. and Russian officials were holding another round of secret talks on creating a "de-escalation zone" in southwestern Syria that would include Daraa.

Two days earlier, an American FA-18 shot down a Syrian SU-22 warplane that had dropped bombs near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. A US F-15E fighter downed an armed Iranian drone near Al-Tanf in Syria, where the United States is training Syrian rebels fighting against ISIS.

On Sunday, US aircraft shot down a Syrian government jet that was bombing Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions south of Raqqa, in eastern Syria.

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Russia's Defense Ministry called the incident a "cynical violation of Syria's sovereignty", and on Tuesday Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that Moscow is still waiting for an explanation from the US.

The news from Australia, one of the coalition partners fighting ISIS in Syria, was described as a blow for the US, putting it in a "very hard position" at a critical time as the battle to liberate the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa continues.

The threat was seen as retaliation for the US downing of a Syrian air force jet, as tensions in the region rose.

The coalition has made it clear to all parties publicly and through the de-confliction line with Russian forces that "the demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated".

As well as announcing that US-led coalition warplanes would be tracked, Russia's ministry of defence suspended a hotline set up to avoid clashes between U.S. and Russian aircraft over Syria.

Dunford said the U.S. has "worked through a number of issues" with Russian Federation and that the deconfliction link set up by both sides "has worked very well over the past eight months".

And it is on the Raqa and eastern border fronts where the advances have brought the regime into conflict with US-led forces.

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