ON FEBRUARY 3, in Idlib province, a Russian Su-25 attack aircraft carrying out an inspection flight in the de-escalation zone was hit by an American-made portable surface-to-air missile. Its pilot, Roman Filipov, ejected from the aircraft and landed, and started to defend himself. For some time, he fired shots from his service gun and finally blew himself up with a grenade to avoid being taken prisoner. He was posthumously awarded the title of ‘Hero of the Russian Federation’.
Certain reports in the international press claim that this was a carefully planned provocation intended to extend the conflict and cause the collapse of the Syrian Arab Republic as an independent state. All the indications suggest that the attackers deliberately lay in wait for the Su-25 at that particular location. Recordings from several different cameras were professionally combined and then simultaneously broadcast on western television channels, with a gloating and ill-natured commentary. The identities of the people who took part in the attack on the Russian aircraft are also known, and there is a theory -as yet unproved- about just how they obtained, or were deliberately given, the anti-aircraft equipment. At present, it is believed that the Russian Su-25 was hit by an American-made portable surface-to-air missile fired by militants from the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham group (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra — the Syrian division of Al Qaeda), which is generously sponsored by Saudi Arabia. The terrorists who brought down the Su-25 from the airspace above Idlib on February 3 do not themselves have the resources needed to buy weapons, and experts are convinced that, without foreign support, they would not have been able to organise the attack on the aircraft.
It is worth reminding readers how just such American-made portable surface-to-air missile systems were used by Afghan Mujahideen and their American trainers to bring down Soviet aircraft. When tragic events of 9/11 occurred (and it is still unclear who was responsible for those events) and when the United States unleashed all its might on Afghanistan — which, unlike Saudi Arabia, was entirely innocent of involvement — it was Russia who came to America’s assistance in her time of grief. And maybe Russia, as the Americans had done, should have filled Afghanistan with portable surface-to-air missile systems and seen thousands of American pilots return to their country in zinc coffins.
However, the suspicions of many journalists were aroused by the way America rushed to deny that it had anything to do with the portable surface-to-air missile that hit the Russian aircraft. And experts claim that the Pentagon is now updating its Stinger missiles to enable them to counter an aircraft’s heat decoys. There are suspicions that the Russian Su-25 was hit by one of these new-generation surface-to-air missiles, which are able to circumvent the aircraft’s defence system. Interestingly, the terrorists decided (for some reason) not to show on the video the moment when the fighter aircraft was hit. If, as a result of the investigation into the attack, it is discovered that the Su-25’s heat decoy cassettes are empty, that will indicate that one of the new-generation American missiles was used against it.
The USA wants to retaliate, which is only possible if the conflict in Syria continues to rage at full force. That explains the continual provocations against Russia, carried out by terrorists and the ‘sponsors’ who hide behind their backs. On 31 December DAESH militants from areas in Idlib province fired on Khmeimim air base with mortar launchers. On the same day, in Hama province, an Mi-24 helicopter, escorted by a military convoy, crashed, and two crew members, Artem Kulish and Valeriy Matveev (both of whom were from Saratov region) were killed, and the on-board mechanic was seriously wounded and evacuated to Khmeimim air base. After that the Russian bases in Kmeimim and Tartrus were attacked by unmanned aerial vehicles, while an American long-range radar detection and guidance aircraft was (by chance?) on patrol nearby. That attack occurred several days after the Russian president Vladimir Putin had visited the base and Russian forces’ victory in the Syrian war. The attacks on the Russian military base can therefore be seen as a message to the Kremlin, in response to the latter’s declaration of victory at a time when the Syrian armed opposition is able to damage Russia’s military prestige by attacking its main bases. And, finally, on February 6 in the centre of Damascus the Russian trade mission’s building came under fire, but fortunately there were no injuries. The building, which is protected by diplomatic immunity, was seriously damaged. However, despite the concerns raised by the Russian foreign ministry, the UN security council, which, as is well known, is based in the USA, refused to accept a statement condemning the attack.
The west followed a policy of carrying out political attacks against Russia, resulting in a major world power, together with an influential country in the region both refusing to accept the legitimacy of the Sochi Congress. As a result, the congress turned into a conference between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, who had all been brought together to support Russian involvement in the conflict and the adoption of a political agreement aimed at keeping Bashar Assad in power. The United States, France, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia and Jordan brought forth a proposal for a political solution in Syria that would involve reviewing the negotiation process in Geneva and international agreements. These five countries proposed that Bashar Assad should step down and his powers be transferred to the Syrian government and parliament, as a precondition for the beginning of a transition period and the holding of elections. The Russian diplomatic delegation concluded from this that the proposal of those five countries was a pre-emptive attempt to undermine the Sochi Congress.
The news coming in from Syria clearly demonstrates that, motivated by ill will and its own powerlessness, the United States is trying to destroy even civilian facilities. What other explanation can there be for the destruction of the bridge over the River Euphrates, which was constructed by Russian soldiers in 2017 during their operation in Deir ez-Zor? The west claims that it collapsed due to a dramatic increase in the level of water in the river, although there had not been any heavy rainfall in the area. It is worth noting that Syrian specialists have already investigated the incident. That investigation showed that the dramatic change in the water level occurred because the Tabqa hydroelectric power station, which is in an area controlled by opposition factions that form part of the US-led coalition, had opened its dam floodgates. The Russian ministry of defence believes that the USA is guilty, which controls the dam of the nearby Tabqa hydroelectric power station.
The Russian foreign ministry cites the conclusion of its experts, who consider that there was no technical necessity for opening the floodgates. The official newspaper of the Russian ministry of defence writes: ‘We cannot exclude the possibility that the Americans carried out this barbaric action because, acting by proxy, they are trying to prevent Syria’s legitimate government from strengthening its position on the left bank of the Euphrates, that is to say, in the areas where the USA is seeking to develop its own influence.’
As part of its policy of unleashing wars in the Middle East (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria) the planned visit of the US secretary of state Rex Tillerson to five countries in the region, from 11 to 16 February, is well under way. On his trip the secretary of state will visit Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait, and will discuss regional security issues and the fight against terrorism. One can only laugh at the agenda of this American ‘peacekeeper’ and his partners. Since it is Washington itself that is the main supporter of terrorists, and US troops are based all over the Middle East, sowing death and destruction throughout the Arab world. There are frequent reports of American military attacks involving aircraft on Syrian government forces. It is worth pointing out that US forces are present in Syria despite Damascus’ calls for them to leave the country, and, particularly, to stop attacking government forces. The attack by the US-led coalition on the forces of Bashar Assad’s allies in Deir ez-Zor Province is a crime, declared Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebeznya. The diplomat pointed out that, despite Washington’s declarations that its purpose in Syria is to fight against terrorists, the USA’s real actions there give a very different impression. ‘They continually declare that they are fighting international terrorism, but we can see that they do not limit themselves to that goal. And to attack those who are really fighting international terrorism alongside [the government of] Syria, — that is a crime.’ was the permanent representative’s comment on the incident.
New Eastern Outlook, February 19. Viktor Mikhin, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine ‘New Eastern Outlook.’
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