Thursday, 22 August 2019

A dogfight between Russian and Turkish fighter jets

Turkish F-16s Were Confronted By Russian Su-35s, S-300s, And S-400s During An Assault On Idlib.

22 August, 2019

Looks like the relationship between Russia and Turkey isn’t as rosy as some thought.

DEBKAfile reports a battle between “Turkish-backed rebels” and the “Syrian army” in Idlib in northern Syria almost resulted in an “aerial dogfight” between Turkish F-16s and Russian Su-35’s. The report states, in part:

As the Syrian army advanced against Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham rebel forces in the key southern Idlib town of Khan Sheikhoun, Turkish Air Force F-16 fighters on Tuesday, Aug. 20 flew over the battle scene, causing Russian Su-35 fighters at the Khmeimim air base near Latakia to scramble in response. They warned the Turkish pilots to withdraw or else be shot down. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Russians accompanied their ultimatum by positioning the S-300 and S-400 air defense batteries deployed at the base at the ready. A short time later, when the Turkish air crews saw the Russian Su-35s flying alongside, they turned tail and left Syrian air space.

Western military sources tracking the fighting in Idlib believe that, although the Turkish pilots were told to break contact with their Russian pursuers on Tuesday, they may try again if the rebel force supported by Ankara falls back under the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive. The danger of a direct Turkish-Russian air engagement is therefore likely to recur.”

The last time Russian and Turkish forces clashed was nearly four years ago, when a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian Su-24, also above northern Syria. However, DEBKA also reports Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is so determined to prevent a “Syrian-Russian” victory in Idlib that he’s willing to take on Moscow—head-on.

This comes amid mainstream reports out of Israel that the U.S. and Russia both agreed to allow Israel to target Iranian-backed militias in both Iraq and Syria. The London-based Asharq al-Awsat reports Moscow and Washington agreed the strikes were “vital to ensure Israeli security.” Although there have already been three such strikes in recent days, Israel was reportedly given the green light to continue as long as Iran remains a threat with its long-range a precision missiles.

Syrian ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari called on both the U.S. and Turkey to end their “illegal military presence” in his country. Speaking at the UN Security Council on Tuesday, he also slammed Turkey for sending a military convoy carrying ammunition into Idlib. And he hammered Israel for its continued occupation of Arab territory, including the Golan.

Meanwhile, Greece has announced it will not “facilitate” Iran’s Adrian Darya 1 oil tanker following diplomatic pressure from Washington. Deputy Foreign Minister Varvitsiotis says his country has “sent a clear message” that it will not help Iran traffic its oil to Syria “in any instance.”

He added the ship is much too large to use its stated destination, the port city of Kalamata, but conceded it’s possible the ship may drop anchor in Greek territorial waters for a ship-to-ship transfer of oil.

This amid reports a tanker filled with Iranian oil is headed to Syria in violation of U.S. sanctions. FOX News, citing Western intelligence sources, says the Bonita Queen left the Iranian coast on Aug. 2 carrying 600,000 barrels of crude oil. The ship was previously flagged by Saint Kitts and Nevis, which has withdrawn its flag—also following U.S. pressure.

And in the meantime, U.S. and Israeli special forces have just concluded a training exercise—in the Mediterranean Sea—in which they simulated taking over commercial ships. The drills, called Noble Rose 2019, were reportedly planned months ago, and are not a direct response to current regional tensions.

An IDF spokesman, however, emphasized the Americans and Israelis were working “shoulder to shoulder” during the exercise.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, however, has warned:

World powers know that in case of complete sanction of [Iran’s] oil [sales] and bringing down Iran’s oil exports to zero, international waterways cannot enjoy the security like before, so [imposing] unilateral pressure against Iran cannot be in their interest and will not guarantee their security in the world and the region.”

Unlike most oil-rich nations, however, Iran lacks refining capacity to meet its own domestic needs. Rouhani, during a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said his government will “expand existing refineries and create new ones.”

(Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force & Russian Defense Ministry)

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