The United States shot down a Syrian fighter jet on Sunday after repeated warnings failed to stop attacks on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish and Arab U.S. ally who’s fighting ISIS in Syria. Previously, the United States had halted a ground assault on the SDF through a “show of force” after the Assad Regime attacked the SDF and captured the town of Ja’Din.
This incident provides an answer to a key question that dominated political debates over the establishment of no-fly zones in Syria and aid to friendly rebel groups at war with both ISIS and the Hezbollah, Iran, Russia, Assad coalition: How do we respond when those under our protection are targeted from the air by Russia or Syria? This question humiliated Hillary Clinton who voiced support for no-fly zones, but was unwilling to definitively state that she would shoot down a Russian warplane to defend Syrian civilians or rebels under American protection.
Instead, the Trump administration responded to a ground assault by the Syrian regime and took action to prevent the Syrian regime from bombing an ally. The Syrian strategy of the Obama administration, hampered by that president’s attempt to reach a separate agreement with a major Assad ally, and the the Syrian strategy of Hillary Clinton, hampered by politics, ultimately left the rebels at the mercy of Assad and Putin. America has just made its allies throughout Syria much safer by demonstrating that they will defend them with lethal force.
The anti-ISIS coalition led by the United States (this coalition refers to its mission as “Operation Inherent Resolve“) released a statement after the incident stating that the United States had shot down a Syrian warplane. They clarified that the coalition has no intention to attack Syria or Russia without provocation, but stood by the decision to shoot down the warplane and suggested that all attacks on coalition allies, such as the SDF, would also draw a response.
This suggests that the Trump administration primarily plans to support rebels allied with the United States by defending them from otherwise overwhelming Russian or Syrian air power, since most of his actions against the Assad Regime, save the attack on the Syrian air field, have been defensive in nature. America’s allies can trust that the U.S. military has their back in the fight against ISIS, and if necessary, in the fight against the Syrian government.