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US says clash averted with Russian mercenaries in Syria

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US forces in Syria narrowly averted another clash with Russian mercenaries like one last month that left more than 100 opposing fighters dead, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday.

Mattis told reporters that “Russian elements” moved across a deconfliction line into an area on the eastern side of the Euphrates river where the sides had previously agreed they could operate, he said.

But he said they came “too close” to positions of US soldiers in the area.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford, contacted his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, about the incursion.

“And those elements fell back so we have also drawn off slightly to maintain the deconfliction between the elements there,” he said.

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“So it seems that this time, it was resolved through the deconfliction communication line,” he added.

Mattis did not give a precise date for the incident, but on Thursday the Pentagon issued a brief statement noting that Dunford and Gerasimov had held talks on Syria and other matters of mutual interest.

According to a US official, the Russian mercenaries have been moving into an area near Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria.

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It was when they began digging firing positions that the US troops deployed in the area along side their Syrian Democratic Force allies became concerned, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The incident comes less than two months after an attack in the same area on the headquarters of the SDF, an alliance of US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters.

US soldiers were in the building and alerted the US-led coalition, which responded with an air strike that killed 100 to 200 fighters, including numerous Russians.

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Evoking that attack, Mattis noted that it was led by “Russian mercenaries.” It was the first time that he directly accused Russia of involvement.


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Meghan McCain snaps at Sunny Hostin for daring to disagree with her about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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Meghan McCain slammed President Donald Trump for hurling racist abuse at four Democratic congresswomen to heighten divisions in his rival party, and then framed the debate in the exact same way he has.

The conservative co-host on "The View" condemned the president's statements urging the four first-year lawmakers to return to their home countries as racist, and then complained that one of their chiefs of staff had accused moderate Democrats of turning a blind eye to racism.

"I think the politics of this is fascinating," McCain began. "We spent our entire week last week talking about how racist and xenophobic the original comments and the chants were, and I stand by that statement."

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Here’s the insidious role Sean Hannity played in derailing Al Franken’s political career

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The U.S. Senate lost one of its most prominent liberals when Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, dogged by sexual harassment allegations, announced his resignation in December 2017. Some of Franken’s defenders believed the Democratic Party was too quick to throw him under the bus; other Democrats stressed that in light of the #MeToo movement, his resignation was absolutely necessary. Franken’s political downfall is the subject of an in-depth report by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who describes — among many other things — the role that Fox News’ Sean Hannity played in the media firestorm.

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The media got it wrong: There’s no evidence GOP support for Trump improved after his racist outburst

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One of the most popular articles last week involved claims that polls showed Republicans had increased their support of President Trump.  But a closer analysis of the data reveals that any increase in support was within the margin of error.  So the polls couldn’t conclude that GOP support for President Trump had gone up or down.

Polls are tricky creatures.  We either give them near god-like status, or discount them entirely, often depending on whether they show us what we want.

I remember the movie “Machete,” where an opportunistic Texas politician fakes his own shooting.  Within five minutes of that story breaking, the news anchor reported that the politician had drastically improved his standing in the polls.  Surveys don’t work that way.

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