Pentagon: ‘Exclusion Zone’ in North Syria Not Technically a No Fly Zone
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Aug 22 2016
After warning Syria not to fly planes in the Hasakeh Province or risk getting them shot down by Pindo planes in the area, the Pentagon is struggling to convince reporters that there is some sort of distinction between this zone you can’t fly in and a “no-fly zone.” Fighting erupted between Syrian Army and Kurdish YPG forces in the city of Hasakeh late last week, with the YPG attempting to take the rest of the city, which had long been jointly held and jointly defended, As the fighting escalated, Syrian warplanes bombed Kurdish forces. Pindostan has its troops embedded with the Kurdish forces, and argued that the Syrian airstrikes were endangering them. Over the weekend they repeatedly scrambled fighter jets to chase off the Syrian planes, warning they were going to ‘defend themselves.” The Pentagon has since expanded this to declaring the area “an exclusion zone,” which is distinct from a no-fly zone because the Pentagon says it is a different thing. Spox P Cook insisted that Pindostan has warned Syria not to fly planes in the area for a long time now. In practice, the move is a dramatic escalation, and Cook’s arguing of semantics didn’t mean much of anything, as he spent the rest of the press briefing railing against the Syrian military for contesting control of Aleppo with AQ’s Jabhat al-Nusra, and insisted that the Kurds would continue to enjoy Pindo military support in the fighting. Every indication is that the Kurds started this fight over Hasakeh, and that the military was more than content to leave the city jointly-held. Russia has been trying to get the two sides to stop fighting, with the only condition being that the Kurds return seized checkpoints to the military. Pindostan, by contrast, seems more than eager to keep the fighting going, and to expand the war.
Pentagon: Exclusion Zone in Syria Is Not a ‘No Fly Zone’
Robert Burns, AP, Aug 22 2016
Syria has been warned not to fly warplanes in areas where Pindo troops are advising Kurdish and Arab forces fighting ISIS, the Pentagon said on Monday. But it insisted this does not amount to a “no fly zone.” Reporters pushed spox P Cook to explain the distinction. He told them:
Our warning to the Syrians is the same that we’ve had for some time, that we’re going to defend our forces and they would be advised not to fly in areas where our forces have been operating. It’s not a ‘no fly zone.’
Later, he said:
You can label it what you want.
Twice last week, Pindostan scrambled fighter aircraft to protect American special operations forces and partner forces after Syrian government warplanes flew near the north-eastern Syrian city of Hasakeh. Cook said there have been no similar incidents since Friday, but he added:
If need be we will send aircraft again to defend our forces.
Cook said the most recent warnings to Syria not to fly in areas near Pindo troops were communicated through the Russian military, which is operating in support of the Syrian government in its fight against opposition forces, including ISIS. Asked whether the Pindo policy is to shoot down a Syrian or Russian aircraft if it poses a threat to Pindo troops on the ground, Cook said:
We’re going to defend our forces on the ground, absolutely.
Cook was highly critical of Syrian military action in and around the divided city of Aleppo, which has become a main battlefield in Syria’s civil war. Relentless shelling and airstrikes have killed more than 300 civilians in the city since rebels broke through a government blockade of the opposition-held east on Jul 31.
The Syrian regime aided and abetted by its allies, Russia and Iran, is driving the escalation with its indiscriminate bombing campaign. Bombing densely populated urban areas, interrupting water and electrical services and maiming civilians is only adding fuel to Syria’s civil war and does nothing to degrade extremist groups, which was of course Russia’s original reason for its military intervention in Syria.
Pentagon: Pindo hasn’t created a de facto no-fly zone over northern Syria
Tara Copp, Stars & Stripes, Aug 22 2016
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Monday that Pindostan has not created a de facto no-fly zone in northern Syria, despite back-to-back incidents in which jets were scrambled to protect troops on the ground. Providing air support for ground troops in Syria is complicated for Pindostan because some of its allies are also targets of the Syrian government. Several of the ‘moderate’ (my sneer quotes – RB) Syrian rebels partnered with Pindostan to fight ISIS are also targets of airstrikes conducted by Assad’s regime. Pentagon spox Cook said:
Our warning to the Syrians is the same we’ve had for some time. They would be advised not to fly where our forces are operating. On Friday, two F-22s responded to two Syrian Su-24s that approached the city of Hasakeh, where Pindo forces have been on the ground ‘training’ (my sneer quotes – RB) Syrian Kurdish and Arab forces fighting ISIS. That incident followed one on Thursday when two Pindo aircraft responded to Syrian jets conducting airstrikes around Hasakeh. In both instances, Pindostan tried to warn off the Syrians by relaying a message through the Russians that the planes were threatening Pindo-protected forces. We’re going to defend our forces on the ground, absolutely. But that does not mean we have established a no-fly zone over the city. We will continue to support our coalition forces and our partnered operations on the ground in Syria. We’ve been clear from the start that the forces that are fighting ISIS will enjoy the support of Pindostan.
Did Washington Just Declare a ‘No Fly’ Zone in Syria?
Daniel McAdams, Ron Paul Institute, Aug 22 2016
Reading between the lines in today’s Pentagon press briefing, a bombshell Pindo policy shift is becoming more apparent: Syrian forces and their Russian partners are being told that conducting military operations in some parts of Syrian airspace opens them up to being shot down by the Pindo military. Pentagon spox P Cook was asked numerous times in numerous ways whether this amounts to a Pindo “no fly zone” over parts of Syria. His first response was vague but threatening:
We will use our air power as needed to protect coalition forces and our partnered operations. …We advise the Syrian regime to steer clear of (these) areas.
The policy shift was so apparent that, one-by-one, the press corps asked for clarification. Does this mean that Pindostan would shoot down Russian or Syrian planes if they attacked any Pindo-backed partners, even if th latter were engaged against Syrian government forces? Are those “coalition forces” and “partnered operations” receiving Pindo protection against attack from the air always in receipt of that protection, or only when they are actively engaged in military operations? What are the rules of engagement? There was no clear answer from the Pentagon spokesman. He said:
Is this a ‘no-fly’ zone, then?
It’s not a “no-fly zone.
Another journalist tried to get some clarity:
How is telling Syria not to fly in certain areas not a ‘no fly’ zone?
Cook eventually said:
Call it what you will.
Another journalist asked:
Do you think the Syrian regime has the right to fly over its own territory?
We will use our air power as needed to protect coalition forces and our partnered operations.
The anti-Russia rhetoric in Cook’s comments was inexplicable as well. According to him, the suffering in parts of Aleppo is not due to its ongoing occupation by Nusra, but rather by Russian and Syrian government attempts to expel Nusra from the city. Cook’s explanation defied logic:
Russian actions in Aleppo are only adding fuel to Syria’s civil war and (do) nothing to degrade extremist groups, which is Russia’s original reason for its military intervention in Syria.
This sentence only makes sense if one accepts the premise that AQ in Syria is not an extremist group, as it makes no sense to argue that bombing a certain group does nothing to weaken that group. Unless the Pentagon is suggesting that Russia and Syria are only bombing the civilian population, presumably for fun? Whatever the case, this is a trial balloon. If this de-facto “no fly zone” becomes a fact on the ground, it will be expanded beyond Hasakah and may be a last-ditch effort to prevent Syrian government forces, aided by Russia, from taking back Aleppo and thus breaking the back of the foreign-backed insurgency. This is endgame time.