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Strike Two: US Again Launches 'Defense' Attack on Russian and Syrian Forces in Syria


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For the second time in a week, US military forces occupying northeast Syria have attacked Syrian government forces, blowing up a Russian-made T-72 battle tank on Saturday. According to a statement made today by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces Central Command, US forces saw a Russian tank in Syria that "took a shot at us" and the US side called in an airstrike in "self-defense." 

Harrigian said that the US troops were in a "defensive position" when they spotted the Russian tank and fired on it. He said he could not rule out the possibility that the tank was being driven by Russian soldiers when the US attacked it. 

Last week's US attack on forces loyal to the Syrian government were first reported to have killed a total of 100 fighters, with one or two Russians possibly in the mix. But just today new information suggests that the US attack had killed up to 100 Russians fighting in special "ISIS killers" squads seeking to mop up the last of the extremist group in Syria.

Losing 100 Russians to a US attack in Syria not only shifts a US/Russia proxy war to a US/Russia hot war (on one side thus far), it also carries with it a great political downside for President Vladimir Putin as the Russian presidential election season begins. Liberal challenger to Putin, Grigory Yavlinsky, is already trying to score political points by criticizing the lack of transparency over what Russians are dying for inside Syria. Putin is stuck between a rock and hard place, as he surely understands the dangers of direct retaliation but also sees the political downside of doing nothing as US forces kill Russians in Syria.

Col. Thomas Veale, a spokesman for the Inherent Resolve coalition, said of last week's strike that it was in response to what are likely Syrian government moves to re-claim control of territory that had been vacated when ISIS was defeated in the area.

US actions in northeastern Syria make it clear that Washington intends to carve out a large chunk of Syrian territory to control, with its proxy Kurd forces acting as boots on the ground. The name of the game is increasingly clear: deny the Syrian government the ability to consolidate its control over large parts of the country now that ISIS is defeated. 

The purpose? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it clear that the ultimate US goal in Syria was, as it has been for more than ten years, regime change.

It distorts words beyond any stretch of meaning for a foreign military that illegally occupies the territory of another sovereign state to claim "self-defense" when the military of that sovereign state seeks to expel the invaders. 

How far is the United States willing to go to pursue the "regime change" policy of the past two US presidencies which remains a prime goal of Washington's friends in the region including primarily Israel and Saudi Arabia? 

Israel's recent military escalation in Syria was halted -- at least temporarily -- by a warning call from Putin to Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. Will the Russian president make a similar call to Washington warning against any further US strikes on Russians operating (legally, unlike the Americans) in Syria? Will Trump's generals heed the warning...or will they seek to call Putin's bluff?

And what happens if Putin is not bluffing?
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