Russia Condemns U.S. Airstrikes on ISIS and al-Qaeda; Assad Approves
Meanwhile, the Americans reportedly coordinated with Syrian rebels and Israel was said to have shot down a Syrian jet in the Golan Heights.
In the wake of the first American-led airstrikes against Islamic State forces in Syria, we're learning that the operation did not just focus on ISIS installations and its oil trade, but also the al-Nusra Front as well. According to Reuters, strikes against the al Qaeda-linked group in northern Syria wrought a death toll of about 50.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting (subscription) that the U.S.-led effort involved coordination with the Free Syrian Army, which has also just become the recipient of some American weapons.
This is a joint coalition effort of which the Syrian opposition is a full-fledged member," said Oubai Shahbandar, a senior adviser to the coalition who was briefed of the U.S. strikes in advance. He was addressing concerns some elements of the opposition had that the U.S. would turn its back on the armed group and instead partner with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to defeat Islamic State militants."
Russia was quick to condemn the airstrikes. TheWashington Post noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin — the patron saint of territorial integrity — decried the airstrikes as a violation of Syria's sovereignty.
Russia is insistent that U.S. measures to target militants in Syria lack authority without buy-in from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — a point Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon Tuesday."
Not only did Syrian dictator Bashar Assad refrain from lashing out against the American-led airstrikes, he seemingly gave a very coded thumbs up:
#BREAKING Syria backs 'any international effort' in fight against jihadists— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) September 23, 2014
Tacit acceptance of strikes on IS by Syria, no renunciation, could provide int'l law fig leaf, at least dampen controversy, for Obama at UN.— David Rothkopf (@djrothkopf) September 23, 2014
Meanwhile, in southern Syria, Israel used a Patriot missile to shoot down a Syrian jet that was said to have encroached into Israeli airspace. From Haaretz:
The jet was toppled over the Syrian side of the Quneitra border, after it had flown 800 meters west of the border into Israel and turned around.
The decision to down the jet was made after 1:20 minutes of flight; when the Patriot hit the plane, the Syrian pilots had already turned around and flown back into their territory.
Here is some wild footage taken by Syrian rebels of the pilots parachuting down:
This was the first time a Syrian jet had been shot down since the early 1980s.
As we noted last week, United Nations peacekeepers fled the Syrian side of the Israeli-Syria border after key crossings were wrested from Assad forces by the al-Nusra Front. The peacekeepers had been in place for 40 years.
If you count the Israeli action along with the United States and its reported partners in Tuesday's airstrikes (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain), six different countries attacked Syria on Tuesday.