U.S. massacre of Syrian troops threatens to unleash wider war

US fighter jets were involved in raids against Syrian regime forces on Wednesday. Bram Janssen  AP

More than 100 fighters aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were killed when U.S. coalition and coalition-backed local forces repelled their attack in eastern Syria. This clash, which took place in Khusham near the Euphrates River, is the largest reported to date between USA -backed forces and pro-regime forces in Syria.

The Syrian government denounced the attack as a "war crime" and "direct support to terrorism", insisting that its forces came under USA attack as they were carrying out an operation against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) elements between the villages of Khasham and al-Tabiya on the eastern side of the Euphrates River. "Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates River deconfliction line".

Coalition and Russian officials were "in regular communication...before, during and after" the assault, the same official said. The Kremlin has used contractors, or mercenaries, extensively to provide plausible deniability that Russian forces are involved in overseas conflicts when they in fact are. It also said it was aware only of 25 Syrian militia members having been wounded in the USA strikes.

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The sirens sounded in the Golan Heights are a result of Syrian anti-aircraft missiles, said the Israeli army in the statement. In January in Moscow, he stressed in front of Vladimir Putin the "danger" of Iran getting a military footing in Syria.

Is it that simple? .

Calling the attack a "perplexing situation", Mattis said he could not give any explanation why they would shell the SDF headquarters with artillery.

Mattis said Thursday the goal is to create conditions for a UN-led political resolution, though there are no indications one could be achieved anytime soon.

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The Russian Defense Ministry reported that it had no military personnel in the area.

Washington is determined to deny the Syrian government control over these resources and to that end has sought to carve out a United States zone of control covering roughly 30 percent of the country, while cutting off its borders with Turkey and Iraq. I would not be surprised if the Trump administration's lawyers would come to the same conclusion. The U.S. was never invited. It only seems more likely given the magnitude of the response.

In Manbij to the west on the Turkish border, another US military official, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, was even more candid with the New York Times reporter accompanying him to the front, where the threat of a face-off with Turkey remained a possibility.

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The US-led coalition was established in 2014 to fight the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, but it has bombed troops loyal to Damascus on several occasions. It is what the Obama administration feared the most, and seems nearly inevitable the way things are progressing in Syria. This does, however, reflect the mission creep in Syria, as the defeat of ISIS has meant the USA forces there need a new justification to stay, and fighting the Assad government looks to be it, with the Pentagon already saying part of their pretext for staying is to ensure regime change.

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