Shooting Down a Syrian Jet was a Cheap Way to Send Iran and Russia a Message

Anyone who reads me regularly knows that I've regularly written against involvement in the Syrian Civil War. So I'm by no means a cheerleader for intervention, but the Trump approach does reflect a more vigorous and muscular policy. And if we have to be involved, it's a lot better to do with it credibility than with Obama's miserable red lines and policy of arming random terrorists.

On the one hand, shooting down a Syrian bomber for bombing Syrian fighters drags us closer to a kind of No-Fly Zone. Which is the first step before regime change. The fighters were reportedly SDF. SDF contains plenty of Kurdish and some non-Muslim components. But there are also Jihadist components. If the Syrians were bombing YPG, it's very different than if they were bombing Sunni Islamists.

On the other hand, it's a cheap way to send a message to Russia and Iran.

Iran is heavily invested in Syria. And it's making more and more threats. Shooting down a Syrian bomber says that we're serious, without directly getting into a shooting fight with Iran.

And then there's Russia whose aerial aggressiveness is legendary. 

Russia is notorious for buzzing aircraft. And for making a show of entering airspace.

Two Russian Bear bombers -- escorted for the first time by a pair of Su-35 "Flanker" fighter jets -- entered Alaska's Air Defense Zone on Wednesday night, U.S. officials told Fox News.

The Russian formation was intercepted by a pair of U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth fighter jets that were already flying a patrol about 50 miles southwest of Chariot, Alaska. A NORAD spokesperson told Fox News the intercept began at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday and a defense source said it also occurred into Thursday.

It was the first time the U.S. Air Force has seen advanced Russian Su-35 fighter jets escort Russian Cold War-era bombers near Alaska.

Late last month, Russian bombers flew near Alaska over four consecutive days for the first time since 2014.

This week's latest episode comes one day after President Trump spoke over the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House said the conversation focused on crises in the Middle East and North Korea, with no mention of recent Russian provocations.

It's been far worse in the actual conflict region. 

It's been a nightmare for Israel over the Golan Heights where the Russians reportedly insisted on doing flyovers while using maps from before the Six Day War effectively not recognizing it as Israeli territory. The Turks, proving less patient, shot down a Russian plane after it entered their airspace. This predictably got the Russians to actually behave and start acting friendly toward Turkey.

The United States hasn't gone that far. But it has sent a clear message. And the Russians have sent a threat back.

"Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets," the Defense Ministry said.

The threat is hollow. It does mean there will be escalation. Lots of alarms. Especially now that the deconfliction hotline is being shut down. But it was always worthless. 

Deconfliction hotlines means that the Russians can push your buttons while not worrying that it may trigger something more serious. 

The bottom line though is that the defeat of ISIS is in sight and that means that everyone suddenly has to decide how to settle this conflict in a world in which ISIS is no longer a factor on Syria (it will probably go on being a factor in Iraq).