Talk:US airstrike on SAA in Deir ez-Zor

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How Unusual?

First US strikes on Syria in late September 2014, among them a gas plant near Deir Ez-Zour

Thinking of what we can add to this, it's often some kind of analysis and correlation. One important point is how unusual it is for the coalition to conduct strikes around Deir Ezzor. Churkin asks why they suddenly wanted to "help" the SAA when they let IS march on Palmyra and implicitly don't usually fight them in this area. The US counters that it has conducted strikes here before and alerted the Russians (but not the Syrians) they would be doing so that day, and there was nothing unusual about it.

I know the coalition at least launched strikes there back in December, when allied jets apparently conducted the Airstrike on Saeqa military camp near Deir ez-Zor and killed a few soldiers, allowed a foiled IS advance, and transparently blamed Russia. So clearly they've conducted strikes here at least once before, and I imagine at least a few times besides these two. But the question is how unusual is it? It's probably hard to answer fully, and doesn't prove anything one way or another. But in case someone knows, finds out, or hears a credible analysis, here's a space. --Caustic Logic (talk) 03:16, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

As in one of famous Victor Chernomyrdin quotes, "never ever happened, ---and now again" (отродясь такого не видали, и вот опять) --Resup (talk) 10:36, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
See the map I've copied from the general "US Strikes" page. So they targeted the region from the beginning, but at that time the situation was quite different with no Russians around. Maybe one could find out about recent months by reading DoD statements.--CE (talk) 11:24, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Ever striking in support of Assad forces?

Strikes, especially when conducted fairly rarely and not in a continuous battle, are planned in advance and have objectives. If it is a strike on front lines of two combatants, it obviously matters which of them is supported and which is attacked, and so it is a part assessment; strikes are ordered when there is enough confidence on who/what will be hit, and the battle effect of that. In Deir ez-Zor, Assad forces had tactical advantage controlling those mountains for a while, and were not in need of US help, it was the opponent who could use some. When IS forces were attacking elsewhere and gaining advantage over Assad forces, it either did not happen, or at least was not reported, that US coalition forces were countering IS to help Assad side. Ever helping Assad side without ever coordinating with it would be weird, too. In terms of priorities, such actions suggests that as of up till now, fighting Assad is actually of higher priority than fighting IS, whenever such choice has to be made. Timing suggests that the strike was made at the last moment when it was still possible before cooperation with Russia is in effect. (If that is proven to be a mistake, well, "a very bad one", which could derail a chance of a solution).--Resup (talk) 08:42, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Using coalition

Two F 16 planes used were Danish. Earlier, it was announced that Australia took part. That seems to leave it to 1 US plane, at most? Leading from behind? Good planning indeed... --Resup (talk) 09:48, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Not so fast. The UK Ministry of Defense just released a statement insisting that they also participated. So strike that US plane. Or what? Bizarre. --CE (talk) 12:38, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
Denmark has F-16s, Australia does not. Most likely the Australian planes were drones. Only U.S. flies the A-10. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 12:57, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
I see. From an article on the ABC website related to the one you just linked to:
Australia's air combat mission in Syria involves Hornets, an air-to-air refuelling tanker and a high-tech Wedgetail command and control aircraft.
I take it Hornets are drones, like this little cutie. --CE (talk) 13:07, 19 September 2016 (UTC)
Hornets are the variety of FA-18 aircraft used by Australia. Actually they probably were Super Hornets.
Australia has just announced the final report into the attack confirming FA-18s were used to drop bombs and EWCS performed Command and Control. See Australian Defence Department Report --Charles Wood (talk) 21:15, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
Hey Charles, good to read you! So is there anything in this or the US report which points to who finally made the decision? Obviously we who are familiar with the facts on the ground can't be satisfied with "they looked like ISIS" nonsense in the summary you linked. --CE (talk) 21:36, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
If you can read through the gobbledegook this is is close as you can get as to what (not who) made the decision Redacted Final Memorandum. Other reports in Australian newspapers say the CAOC was primarily US personnel with some Australians (and other coalition members) attached for liaison purposes but not for making operational decisions.--Charles Wood (talk) 23:08, 30 November 2016 (UTC)

Irregular Forces in a New Area?

The emergent US explanation seems to be they found these alleged Syrian soldiers in an area soldiers weren't known to be, where IS was at least as likely to be, and they actually looked more like Daeshbags, in civilian clothes and sporting irregular weaponry.

This has two parts we should consider one at a time. The first part has two parts: centrally, they were not in uniform - optionally, they were in fact prisoners of the regime put there perhaps to fool the Americans into thinking they were IS and killing them, so they could embarrass the US and complain. (see CNN, Daily Beast)

IF the main part ("The initial signs indicate they were dressed in civilian clothing") is true - which is doubtful - they could be any kind of irregular militia that uses no uniform (if there are any that don't, not sure) But they have to specify this is a regime crime - these may be prisoners, forced to fight, with irregular weapons, no uniforms, and questionable loyalty, holding an important position overlooking "the Islamic State's main goal" of the airport (see map below) Or, as officials are investigating, maybe "they were deliberately placed there to potentially deceive the coalition." (CNN) So just as they swear the military attack on Syria was accidental, the US 'unnamed officials' take the first chance to attack Syria informationally, as they always have...

Okay, the other thing that made these fighters look like Islamic State is supposedly how they were in an area where Syrian forces weren't known to be. CNN heard:

The strike happened about two kilometres outside the airport in Deir Ezzor, where the US did not expect Syrian forces to be located. The US had struck ISIS strongholds in the area of Deir Ezzor dozens of times in recent months, but had not seen Syrian forces at this location.

They had never seen or heard of Syrian forces there, or just in the most recent moths? Was this mountain previously ISIS-held? Left a no-man's land, or battled over back and forth? Not clear, but they apparently think it was never a Syrian army position until that day or some sneaky time shortly before.

Here's what I found for starters with a few minutes searching.

The sources said that army units station in Deir Ezzor Military Airport directed intensive rocket and artillery fire at hideouts and concentrations of ISIS terrorists east of the airport and in the surroundings of al-Tharda and al-Taim field, which resulted in destroying a tanker full of fuel and several machinegun-equipped vehicles.
The Syrian army and its allies’ attacks on terrorists’ positions near al-Tharda mountain in the Southern parts of Deir Ezzur killed and wounded tens of them.
... at least 25 ISIL terrorists, including 10 fighters under-the-age 16, were killed and many more were wounded in the Syrian army’s attacks in al-Huweija district and al-Tharda mountain.
Tal Tharda Unexpected Army Presence.png

Suggested: just enough fluidity that it could be an open question. But here's what was recorded as of May 10, 2016 by the mainstream Washington Institute for near East Policy - map: the battle for Deir Al-Zour (PDF file). This shows Al-Tharda mountain (as Jabal Turda), shown with quotes from the CNN report. It's well within the area of SAA control, overlooking the airport, labeled as "The Islamic State's main goal." Active pushes are shown from two sides, but not from the mountain direction. On September 16, we know, they did push up there and overran it, with US-coalition help. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:03, 20 September 2016 (UTC)

The Peto Lucem maps show an SAA offensive towards the place on January 21, 2016, still in ISIS hands like in the maps before. Maps from earlier years show only the zoomed in city and airport area. Later maps from March and June 2016 show the mountain well inside SAA territory. Can't remember any great advance of ISIS there in recent months (which doesn't mean much), and I think I read at more than one sources (SyrPer?) that it has been in SAA hands for many months. So with this and your info I'd say late January 2016 is the last time it changed hands. --CE (talk) 11:16, 20 September 2016 (UTC)
Great, didn't think to check this yet. They should agree for May anyway - Peto Lucem is one of the sources cited as drawn on for the Washington Institute's map (it's typed along the left side). --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:19, 20 September 2016 (UTC)
A later map from the same Washington Institute shows the September 17 strike in relation to the same government-held area, and for reference the front line from January, showing ISIS had been positioned at the mountain before - 8 months before. --Caustic Logic (talk) 08:59, 11 December 2016 (UTC)

"Friendly Fire" Incidents and Military Cooperation

Possibly of interest ...

  • 1967: Israeli forces nearly sink the USS Liberty (surveillance), killing 37 sailors in a susatined, up-close assault by fighter jets and torpedo boats. They claim it was an accident, and they just never realized it was an American vessel, claiming to have identified it as a quite different Egyptian vessel. Effects: US accepted the accdient claim, continued assistance with ongoing six-day war, continued or escalated military support to and coordination with Israel. One part of the idea of working closer together was to have good communications and avoid "mishaps" like that.
  • 1987 (IIRC) USS Stark is attacked in the Persian gulf by Iraqi fighter jets during its war with Iran, killing bout 37 sailors as well. This was said to be and accepted as an accident, and led to clearer communication and tighter teamwork, especially in the air, as the US and Iraq worked together into 1988 to devastate Iran with further-reaching strikes, use of chemical weapons (in both Iran and Kurdistan) and FWIW, an "accidental" US shoot-down of a "misidentified" Iranian civilian airliner on July 3, 1988, killing 270. (no tighter cooperation there... and this in turn led to the Lockerbie bombing, blamed falsely on Libya, as the West was working with Al Qaeda in the 1990s to kill Gaddafi and destabilize Libya, etc...)
  • 2016: Just as the US and Russia are semi-publicly set in advance to co-ordinate their air war(s) against Islamic State, the US pulls this stunt, on "accident." In the context above, if that context matters, what does that mean? Their way of saying "okay, so we'll need better communication. Let's team up. What else do you want, and how should we communicate that we understand?" ?? --Caustic Logic (talk) 06:17, 19 September 2016 (UTC)

Follow -up

Several days after, situation turned for the worse, while major fighting is elsewhere, in Aleppo. --Resup (talk) 08:43, 24 September 2016 (UTC)

ISIS launched their offensive from Point 3 at Jabal Thardeh, striking the Syrian Arab Army's (SAA) defenses along points 1 and 2 at the eastern slopes of the mountain. Following a fierce battle on Wednesday, the Islamic State terrorists were able to establish full control over the entire mountaintop, leaving them within striking distance of both the Deir Ezzor Military Airbase and provincial capital.
ISIS managed to capture most of the farms at Al-Jufrah, leaving them within striking distance of the Deir Ezzor Military Airport's southern perimeter.

Apparently fakes

Likely both stories are fakes; no way to really check them. Underscores serious tension/disagreement between Russian and Western coalitions. --Resup (talk) 10:23, 24 September 2016 (UTC)