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Russia is testing Biden’s resolve in Syria over ‘unprofessional’ incidents.

Russian forces in Syria have continued to harass US forces and obstruct US operations in the country, engaging in “unprofessional” behavior that the US has so far failed to stop.

“The Russians are clearly trying to harass U.S. efforts, surveillance efforts and military efforts inside Syria,” Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal, told Fox News Digital. “The Russians are trying to pressure the United States to withdraw from Syria so that the Russians can gain more prominence there.”

Roggio’s comments came after a Russian fighter jet shot down a U.S. surveillance plane in the skies over Syria, according to the Pentagon, an incident that put the lives of four American crew members at risk.

Russian fighter jet shoots down US warplane over Syria, threatens crew

In this image from video released by the Air Force, a Russian SU-35 flies near an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone over Syria on July 5, 2023. (US Air Force via AP)

The close call was just one in a series of incidents in Syria in which Russian troops have tested their American counterparts without apparent fear of consequences. Earlier this month, the Pentagon released footage showing Russian aircraft flying close to multiple US drones and deploying flares. A day earlier, Russian SU-35 fighter jets flew into the flight path of a US-operated MO-9 Reaper drone, forcing the unmanned aircraft to take evasive action.

The Pentagon later revealed that the harassing drones were the same aircraft used a day earlier in a strike in eastern Syria that killed ISIS leader Osama al-Muhajir.

In two other incidents this month, Russia flew an intelligence mission over a U.S. military base and intercepted an MQ-9 drone on the same day a Russian plane flew over al-Tanf Garrison, which houses U.S. forces in northern Syria, for a long time, violating the demarcated line of defiance between the two countries.

A spokesman for the National Security Council told Fox News Digital that Russia’s recent actions “violate established protocols and international norms, putting the safety of US and Russian personnel at risk.”

The spokesman said Russia’s unannounced and uncoordinated reconnaissance flight on Friday morning was another example of its continued unprofessional and dangerous behavior in Syria. “Two weeks ago, Russian military aircraft exhibited the same unsafe and unprofessional activity: its fighter jets were harassing US drones during a routine mission against ISIS targets. They dropped multiple flares and engaged in afterburners directly in front of US aircraft, creating unsafe turbulence and threats that forced our aircraft to be handcuffed.”

All of the incidents followed Russia’s downing of a US drone over the Black Sea in March, with a Russian fighter jet flying close enough to hit the drone and send it crashing to the ground.

The U.S. military responded to the series of incidents by urging Russian forces to “cease this reckless behavior and adhere to the standards of conduct expected of a professional Air Force, so that we can resume our focus on the sustainable defeat of ISIS.”

Side-by-side photo of Biden, Jett and Putin

Russian forces in Syria have continued to harass US forces and obstruct US operations in the country, engaging in “unprofessional” behavior that the US has so far failed to stop. (Fox News)

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“U.S. Air Force Central remains committed to ensuring the safety and security of our personnel and assets and continues to work with partners and allies to address these incidents and prevent escalation of tensions in the region,” said Lt. Gen. Alexis Grinkiewicz, commander of the 9th Air Force. “The safety of military personnel and the success of the mission against ISIS depends on the professional and responsible conduct of all forces operating in the region.”

Asked this month whether the United States would send more troops to the region to help stop Russian provocations, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley dismissed the chain of events.

“There’s a little bit of an increase, but I won’t say too much,” Milley told reporters. “I believe our forces have adequate rules of engagement and are provided with the authority to defend themselves.”

But Roggio says there isn’t much the U.S. can do to deter Russia’s actions, noting that any direct engagement with Russian forces would risk a catastrophic escalation.

“I don’t see many options,” Roggio said. “You can deploy F-16s and F-22s in the air, but if the Russians ignore them, there are very few things that can jam Russian planes, shoot across the bow, things like that. But it’s very dangerous.”

Mark Milley

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley (AP Photo/Alex Brandon/File)

The U.S. Air Force says new video shows Russian fighter jets harassing U.S. drones in Syria.

However, while the U.S. can’t do much to stop Russia from harassing Russia, Roggio says it’s important for the U.S. to maintain its mission in Syria.

“The Islamic State still exists, it still has a significant presence in Syria,” he said.

Roggio pointed out that while two presidents have claimed that the Islamic State has been eliminated, the terrorist group still has “thousands of fighters, still has leadership and still poses a threat.”

“If the U.S. withdraws, it will actually give the Islamic State an opportunity to rebuild its power,” he said.

Joel Rubin, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration, agreed that U.S. options to deter Russian behavior in Syria are limited, arguing that “America should not go to war with Russia.”

Rubin said Russia is likely to continue to test the United States, especially after ties between the two countries further soured during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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“Russia sees Syria as part of its sphere of influence. As a result, it has become a real power in the heart of the Middle East … and it doesn’t want to give up that beachhead,” Rubin said. “Anything they can do to get America out, that’s part of where they want to go.”

Rubin also pointed out that Russia is trying to test American capabilities to gain information that could be useful to it down the road.

“They want to know about the capabilities,” Rubin said. “They want to see how far they can go to push the US. And can they get information at a strategic level about the US and US forces and capabilities that they can potentially use elsewhere?”

Rubin added that he does not see Russia abandoning its strategy in Syria anytime soon, noting that the country has essentially turned into a Russian colony and that the Russians will continue to see it as an important part of their influence.

Parachute flares

Flares from a Russian SU-35 are seen near an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone. (US Air Force via AP)

“Syria is a satellite state of Russia and also provides a port on the Mediterranean for Russia,” Rubin said. “Basically, that’s what they’re all about, the ability to project power and dominate and maintain their colony.”

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Assad and Putin billboard

TOP SHOT – A banner depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin and the words “Justice Prevails” is seen along a highway in the Syrian capital Damascus on March 8, 2022.

Despite the challenges that Russia will continue to pose to the region, Roggio says it’s important for the US not to lose its will, though he notes that current US policy could do more to stem the terrorist threat from Syria.

“What this administration and the last two administrations have done in Syria, Iraq, and Somalia has masked the problem,” Roggio said.

“They’ve been very comfortable with it. In some cases, you could say it works,” Roggio continued, adding that it’s possible that the policy to contain the problem could lead to disaster.

“The problem is … they’re flexible, they’re good at recruiting, they’re good at regenerating their leadership, and they’re good at waiting,” Roggio said. “I’m not going to argue that we should all go to the ground, but what I’m saying is that what we’re doing now is not solving the problem.”

Meanwhile, the National Security Council told Fox News Digital that the fight against ISIS will continue.

“We remain focused on the mission to defeat ISIS, as evidenced by our recent strike against an ISIS leader in Syria last week,” the spokesman said.

Source by [Fox News]



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