Tensions between the United States and Russia have been high for many years, and alongside the war in Ukraine, the two powers have recently risked escalating the conflict between them in another arena, particularly close to Israel.
Two significant incidents took place this week between the Russian military and the US military in Syria, and senior US military officials have expressed concern that tensions are escalating which could result in a direct confrontation.
The Russian air force attacked targets this week, from Wednesday night to Thursday, near the al-Tanf crossing point, on the border with Iraq and not far from the border with Jordan .
Al-Tanf is home to a US military base with around 200 fighters, as part of coalition activities in Syria. The Russian military reportedly targeted “local terrorists” and warned US military forces before proceeding with the attack.
The message sent by the Russian army to the US army was transmitted through the hotline that operates between the two armies in the country – which was established years ago and designed to avoid friction between the armies.
Shortly after, the Russians attacked with two Sukhoi Su-35s and a Sukhoi Su-24, according to the US military. According to reports from Arab media, the attack caused no casualties, but it did hit targets of elements opposed to Bashar al-Assad’s army.
The bombed forces, located near the American base of al-Tanf in eastern Syria, are apparently Kurds working in cooperation with the Americans, and even receiving support and training from them. According to the Russians, these are “terrorist” elements that harmed Assad’s armed forces and also posed a danger to the activities of the Russian army in Syria.
Another incident this week in Syria, on the night of the Russian attack near Al-Tanf, raised fears of new friction between Americans and Russians.
That night, US forces captured Hani Ahmad al-Kurdi, an IS “artificer”, and presented him as one of the main leaders of the jihadist group in Syria.
The American raid ended successfully with no injuries or deaths. However, shortly after the incident, two Russian Sukhoi 34 fighter jets arrived at the scene, allegedly to gather intelligence on US activities at the site, according to Channel 12.
As a result, US F-16 fighter jets were sent in, causing Russian planes to leave, according to a US military spokesman.
“We seek to avoid miscalculations or any action that could lead to unnecessary confrontation: that has been and remains our mission,” said Gen. Eric Corilla, commander of the US Army’s Central Command (Sentcom). “At the same time, recent Russian behavior is provocative,” he added.
The United States is considered Ukraine’s biggest supporter in the war against Russian invasion, but President Joe Biden constantly indicates that he has no interest in escalating tensions with Russia and warns against the possibility of the conflict escalating into a direct military confrontation between the two countries.