Pentagon Considering Military Options Against Syria and Russia: Redeploys F-16s and A-10s to Middle East

The United States is considering possible military options to respond to Russia’s military presence in Syria, according to an anonymous Pentagon official cited by the Associated Press (AP). This would be aimed at “address increasing Russian aggression in the skies over Syria,” and comes after U.S. Air Force officials complained that Russian Su-35 fighters had “harassed” American MQ-9 Reaper drones over Syrian airspace. The Pentagon official further informed AP that there was “growing cooperation” between Russia, Syria and Iran was aimed at driving the U.S. forces out of Syrian territory. The report closely followed a protest by the Deputy head of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria Rear Admiral Oleg Gurinov that NATO warplanes had violated Syrian airspace 10 times from July 12-13 alone. Russia retains a single airbase in Syria form which it has since August 2015 directed operations in the country both to support Syrian government counterinsurgency efforts targeting Western and Turkish backed militants, and to protect the freedom of action of Russian and Syrian forces on Syrian soil against attacks from Western powers and from Turkey. Its fighters and attack helicopters have on rare occasions temporarily deployed to other facilities such as Qamishli Airport in northeastern Syria.

Amid rising tensions in Syria the United States Air Force in mid-June redeployed F-22 fifth generation stealth fighters to an airbase in the Middle East, which was reported to be Muwaffaq Salti Airbase in Jordan rather than Al Dhafra Airbase in the United Arab Emirates – providing greater proximity to the Syria theatre. While Abu Dhabi ignored persistent American requests to shun ties with Syria, and restored diplomatic relations in 2018, Amman which remains more closely aligned with the West has not done so. This was more recently followed by the deployment of U.S. Air Force A-10 ground attack jets to the Gulf in the first week of July, after which came a deployment of F-16 fighters on July 14. Although reported by U.S. officials as intended to increase the U.S. Military’s “visibility” as a “deterrent” to Iran, the assets could well support operations in Syria including, if needed, targeting Iranian assets in the country. Unlike the F-22s, which were developed for high end air superiority missions to engage Russian fighters like the Su-35, the F-16s and A-10s are much more likely to be used in air to surface roles, with both classes having been used for Western air strikes on Syrian Army positions in the past. 

The U.S. Military has deployed a contingent of approximately 900 personnel to assert control over Syria’s most oil rich northwestern regions, with oil being extracted in considerable quantities, exported, and sold. The funds from these operations are appropriated to finance the American military presence, which is widely considered illegal, if not pillaging which is a war crime, as neither the Syrian government not the United Nations Security Council have authorised the occupation or oil extraction. U.S. forces are supported by units from other NATO members, which have in the past included Norwegian, French and British special forces. Syrian and allied efforts to challenge the Western presence have been met with overwhelming retaliation leveraging the U.S. Military’s vast network of bases across the region and its surrounding naval presence. The appropriation of Syrian oil by Western countries has complimented extensive Western economic warfare efforts targeting the Arab country, causing very significant energy shortages and limiting its ability to recover after over a decade of counterinsurgency efforts which ravaged major cities across the country.