The Russian military on June 16 bombed a “secret base” near the Jordanian border in Syria used by “elite American and British forces” as part of efforts to strong-arm the Obama administration into agreeing to cooperate with Moscow, reports The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Four U.S.-backed Syrian rebels were killed by the Russians.
The risk that U.S. and British forces could have been killed at the border garrison hardened opposition at the Pentagon and the CIA to accommodating the Russians. But White House and State Department officials, wary of an escalation in U.S. military involvement in Syria, decided to pursue a compromise.
President Barack Obama capitulated under Russian pressure.
On July 12, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was preparing to travel to Moscow complete and announce an agreement to boost U.S.-Russia coordination in Syria, Russian aircraft dropped cluster bombs on another base near the Jordanian border that housed hundreds of family members of CIA-backed fighters and other displaced Syrians, adds the Journal, citing unnamed U.S. officials briefed on the strike and rebel commanders.
At least “two young children, aged two and three, were killed along with two young women and a man in his mid-50s,” WSJ learned from Tllass Salameh, a commander with the Lions of the East rebel group which works out of the base.
He added that “48 people were injured, all civilians.”
Russia struck the outpost on June 16 despite U.S. warnings that it “was part of the U.S. campaign against Islamic State and shouldn’t be attacked,” points out the Journal, adding:
Roughly 90 minutes after the U.S. warning was delivered, U.S. aircraft circling nearby watched as the Russians launched a second wave of strikes against the garrison.
A U.S. military surveillance aircraft overhead tried to hail the Russian pilots directly using the frequencies which the U.S. and Russian governments had agreed to use in emergencies.
The Russian pilots didn’t respond.
When the Pentagon demanded an explanation, the Russians provided various stories that were either rejected by the United States military or proven to be false.
Despite the attacks, President Obama’s State Department agreed to join forces with Russia in Syria over objections from the Pentagon and CIA.
When Russian aircraft bombed a remote garrison in southeastern Syria last month, alarm bells sounded at the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defense in London.
The Russians weren’t bombarding a run-of-the-mill rebel outpost, according to U.S. officials. Their target was a secret base of operations for elite American and British forces…
U.S. military and intelligence officials say the previously unreported close call for Western forces on June 16, and a subsequent Russian strike on a site linked to the Central Intelligence Agency, were part of a campaign by Moscow to pressure the Obama administration to agree to closer cooperation in the skies over Syria.
Last week, Kerry announced that the Obama administration and Russia have agreed to join forces in Syria against the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and addressing the indiscriminate bombings by the Russian-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The U.S. State Department reported that Kerry spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin about increasing pressure against both the Nusra Front and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but the secretary did not mention the latter group as part of the deal.
Kerry did refuse to share some of the details of the agreement with the public, a move that prompted critics to say the administration has conceded too much.
The Assad regime and its allies, Shiite Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah, are expected to benefit from the pact between Moscow and Washington.
Some of the Assad regime’s most effective enemies — the Sunni terrorist groups ISIS and the Nusra Front — will be targeted by Russia and the United States together.
The Journal reports that the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. and the Kremlin’s Defense Ministry declined to answer questions about the strikes.
WSJ points out:
A provisional agreement reached by Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow last week—over Pentagon and CIA objections—calls for the former Cold War adversaries to join forces in strikes against the Nusra Front, Syria’s al Qaeda affiliate. In exchange for the U.S. easing Moscow’s international isolation, Russia would halt airstrikes on the U.S.-backed rebels and restrain the Syrian air force.
Russia has been linked to “hundreds of sorties” against U.S.-backed rebels fighting the Assad regime, adds the Journal.