In what is almost certain to be construed by the Russian government as an act of war, this week, three high-ranking Russian officers were killed in an attack attributed to ISIS in eastern Syria—but which was much more likely the work of U.S. special forces or insurgents operating under their control.
A Russian three-star general and two colonels were killed while visiting a Syrian army command center in Deir ez-Zor in a mortar attack publicly attributed to ISIS forces.
Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov, of the Russian armed forces, was killed after coming under shelling from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants near Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry has announced.
Immediately after his death, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that the “two-faced policy” of the United States was to blame for the death of Russian Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov in Syria, the RIA news agency quoted him as saying.
“The death of the Russian commander is the price, the bloody price, for two-faced American policy in Syria,” Ryabkov told reporters, according to RIA.
“The American side declares that it is interested in the elimination of IS … but some of its actions show it is doing the opposite and that some political and geopolitical goals are more important for Washington,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying.
Asapov, commander of the 5th Army in Russia’s Eastern Military District, one of the four strategic commands in the Russian Armed Forces, is the highest-ranking Russian officer to be killed in the Syrian campaign.
In its statement, the ministry said that Asapov was at a command outpost manned by Syrian troops, assisting commanders in the liberation of the city of Deir ez-Zor.
As the Moon of Alabama reports:
For three years ISIS had besieged Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor city and its airport. It had not once managed to successfully attack the Syrian headquarter or to kill high ranking officers. Now, as US proxy forces “advised” by US special forces, have taken position north of Deir Ezzor, “ISIS” suddenly has the intelligence data and precision mortar capabilities to kill a bunch of visiting Russian officers?
So, what is really going on here?
With the war in Syria winding down, the Assad-controlled government and their Russian allies are in competition for the oil fields in eastern Syria. After failing to succeed in forcing regime change in Syria, the goal of the United States has now turned to assisting local proxy forces to secure and set up a small Kurdish state—aligned with the US & Israel—in the region.
Conversely, the victorious Syrian government and their Russian partners understand that securing those same oil fields is a necessity to fund the rebuilding of a war-torn Syria.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has recently released aerial images that show US special ops equipment in ISIS positions, while simultaneously claiming that the US is working directly with the Islamic State:
US Army special units provide free passage for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) through the battle formations of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, the ministry said in a statement.
‘Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,’ the statement reads.
The newly released aerial photos ‘clearly show that US special ops are stationed at the outposts previously set up by ISIS militants.’
‘Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them,’ the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
As we previously reported, Russia’s MoD claimed the aerial photos were taken on Sept. 8-12 over ISIS locations north of Deir er-Zor. The equipment from American Special Operations Forces came in the form of “a large number” of American Hummer armored vehicles.
The statement noted that even though the presence of the Special Operations Forces would indicate that they were aware of the terrorist group’s presence in the area, its actions suggest that “the US troops feel safe in terrorist controlled regions,” because there were no calls for an organized screening patrol and there is no evidence of US-led coalition airstrikes to drive out the militants.
The US claims they are fighting ISIS in Deir ez-Zor, not assisting them.
Additionally, photographic evidence suggests the Russian assessment, of ISIS/US collusion, may be accurate. A significant portion of ISIS in Deir ez-Zor comes directly from local tribal forces.
Published pictures reveal US special envoy Brett McGurk met with tribal leaders in the area—during which agreements were made—yet, those same tribal leaders are seen previously swearing allegiance to Islamic State.
The dynamics at work here are similar to that of the “Anbar Awakening” during the US war in Iraq. The US is again co-opting local extremists through bribes to temporarily act as a proxy force for the United States. The US will then go on to claim it defeated ISIS, only to have those same forces go back to their old ways once the payments from the US cease.
Revealing precisely how this game works—the US special forces created a “Deir ez-Zor Military Council” and promptly appointed local thug, and former ISIS fighter, Ahmad Abu Khawla, as the military council commander.
So, when a Russian general is killed in an attack that US special forces operators were almost certainly complicit in—rest assured that there will be a commensurate response at a later date. No one in the circles of power in Russia, Iran, China or Syria believe that this attack was committed by ISIS fighters—regardless of the officially stated Russian position that ISIS did it, which strategically negated any pressure to immediately respond.
Leaders in Russia understand that the killing of the Russian general is not independent of other recent US movements, and will likely escalate in turn.
Remember, although the US and Russia are both ostensibly in Syria to fight the Islamic State, Russia has been invited by the internationally recognized Syrian government, and have legitimacy. Conversely, the US is violating international law by invading a sovereign country with the goal of regime change under the guise of a humanitarian intervention.
Although direct engagement between the Americans and Russia have thus far been avoided, the US attempt to create an allied mini-state that divides Syria, killing Russian officers, and openly working with terrorist groups may force Russia to take more forceful measures.
It is virtually unthinkable to believe that a high-ranking Russian general could be killed without a response.
Make no mistake, the Russian view is that the US has declared war upon their Syrian force, and will respond forcefully. The Russian response may not even come from their own forces, as they have many allies in the region that would likely carry out a proxy attack, potentially not even in Syria. Or they could “accidentally” bomb US troops embedded with Islamist terrorist groups.
The means and methods the Russians possess to respond to this clear escalation by the US are virtually limitless. All high-ranking US civilian officials and military officers across the greater Middle East are now potentially in the crosshairs.