The Russian airbase in Syria, Hmeimim, and the naval base at Tartus came under simultaneous drone attack. The advanced Russian air defence system thwarted the attack. A wave of 13 drones was involved, and, interestingly, three of them were brought down intact. After forty-eight hours of careful analysis of the incident, Russian Defence Ministry in Moscow came out with a statement: During the hours of darkness Russian air defense facilities made clear 13 remoted unknown small-sized air targets approaching the Russian military assets. Ten combat UAVs were approaching Russia’s Hmeymim air base and three more the logistics center of Tartus.
Engineering solutions used by terrorists when attacking Russian facilities in Syria could have been received only from a country with high technological potential on providing satellite navigation and distant control of firing competently assembled self-made explosive devices in appointed place. The countries with such “high technological potential” and capability for “Satellite navigation and distant control” which are involved in the proxy war in Syria are just two in number United States and Israel. Take your pick. To my mind, it is improbable that Israel, despite its bravado, would dare to attack Russia.
In sum, there was a spiteful American attack on Russian “assets” on the Christmas Day of the Russian Orthodox Church. The statement in Moscow was made after evaluation of the 3 drones that have been captured. It’s fairly explicit tone is meant for the folks in Pentagon. To be sure, Pentagon suo moto came out with a pre-emptive statement deflecting the blame to Syrian rebels. That is an act of plausible deniability, since there are rebel groups operating in northern Syria. But they are al-Qaeda affiliates, who are American and Israeli proxies. The RT has a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder, here, to the Pentagon disclaimer.
Why is the US is contesting the Russian bases in Syria? The point is, these Russian bases are located in Latakia province along the Mediterranean coast. And the US military objective is to gain access to the Mediterranean coast for the Kurdistan enclave it is creating in Syria without which the enclave will be landlocked and dependent critically on supply routes via Turkey or Iraq, apart from being economically unviable (although it is an oil-rich region of Syria.) The Saudi establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the Trump administration is planning to grant diplomatic recognition to the Kurdistan enclave in northern Syria (which is of the size of Lebanon.) The idea is to create a permanent foothold for the US and Israel in a strategic, economically self-sufficient independent Kurdistan where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria meet, and which may eventually reach Iran’s western border with northern Iraq.
But the US-Israeli strategy will remain a pipedream if the Kurdistsn is land-locked and continues to be challenged by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Hence the criticality of creating an access route to the Mediterranean via Latakia province. Russia and Turkey understand the US intentions perfectly well. That explains their latest move to clear the al-Qaeda affiliate groups that are ensconced in the Idlib province adjacent to Latakia. The Syrian government forces and its allied militia with Russian air support are advancing on Idlib in an operation that began last week. Idlib is a fairly big province and some protracted fighting is needed to vanquish these al-Qaeda groups. Syrian government forces captured a strategic town, Sinjar, which brings them within 20 kilometers of the sprawling air base at Abu Zuhour in Idlib. By the way, the highway connecting Damascus and Aleppo also passes through eastern Idlib.
Turkey is cooperating with Russia in clearing Idlib of the al-Qaeda groups. (Idlib borders Turkey.) Indeed, Turkey is staunchly opposed to the US efforts to create a Kurdistan in northern Syria. President Recep Erdogan openly threatened last weekend that Washington will “never be able to turn northern Syria into a terror corridor,” vowing to “hit them (US) very hard. They should know that we are determined on this. Areas that they consider as part of the terror corridor could turn out to be their graves.”
Conceivably, the recent attempts by the US and Israel to stir up turmoil within Iran is linked to all this. The US-Israeli game plan is to get Iran bogged down in internal issues. The Syrian and Iraqi governments are dependent on Iran and Hezbollah to do the heavy lifting in the war against the US-backed al-Qaeda and ISIS groups. Tehran understands the US-Israeli strategy. The Iranian regime is highly experienced in defeating the US and Israel covert operations. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei understands that the Syrian conflict is also an existential battle for Iran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders are on record that the choice is between fighting the US-Israeli proxies in Syria and Iraq or fighting them on Iranian soil.
How will Moscow react to the US-backed drone attack on its bases? A permanent solution lies in retaliating against the American forces and inflicting heavy casualties like in Beirut in 1983. If a few dozen American body bags arrive in Washington from Syria, President Trump is sure to say, ‘enough is enough, boys, come home.’ But the problem is that the US is fighting a “hybrid war”, embedded within the Kurdish militia and cannot be targeted easily. Pentagon has also inserted “contractors” (American mercenaries) so that political risk is minimized. Therefore, Russia’s option will be to step up the operations to cleanse Idlib province of the al-Qaeda groups backed by US and Israel once and for all. Indeed, Nikki Haley will begin howling in the UN on Israeli instructions alleging “war crimes.”
Of course, as they say, all is fair in love and war and there is another option open to the Russians or Iranians, too equipping the Afghan Taliban with drones. But they are unlikely to go that far as of now, at least.