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Monday, January 23

"In war the first three reports are wrong." Make that the first 50 reports in the internet era

B at Moon of Alabama has weighed in on the Russian MoD's announcement today that it received coordinates from the US on an Islamic State position in Al Bab city, in Aleppo Province:

[...]

In another policy surprise a new coordination between Russian and U.S. intelligence circles in Syria is bearing fruits:
Russia has received coordinates of Daesh [Islamic State]  targets in Al-Bab, Aleppo Province, from the US via the 'direct line,' the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday. The United States has provided coordinates of the terrorists' targets in the city of Al-Bab in Aleppo province for Russian airstrikes. After the reconnaissance check, Russia and two coalition jets have conducted joint airstrikes on the Daesh targets in the region.
The U.S. military seems to deny:
Any involvement or participation of American assets on the ground in country, in support of a series of Russian airstrikes against the northern Syrian town of al-Bab was “100 percent false,” said Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway.
The U.S. coalition spokesperson also said it is:
"not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria"
Before jumping up an down and claiming that the Russians are lying, the media should take a fine comb and reread the statements.

The DoD only denied it coordinated airstrikes or helped with "assets on the ground". It does not deny the transfer of coordinates. The Russians do not claim U.S. airplanes took part in the mission - only "coalition jets". Turkey is part of the U.S. coalition and coordinates airstrikes with the Russian forces in Syria:
Earlier, Russian and Turkish combat planes have carried out a new series of joint airstrikes against Daesh targets in war-torn Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday."The Russian and Turkish planes carried out joint airstrikes against Islamic State terrorists in the outskirts of the town of al-Bab in Aleppo province on January 21," the ministry said in a statement.
The Russian statement is likely as correct as the DoD statement.

The political significance here is the transfer of ISIS targeting coordinates from some U.S. agency directly to the Russian forces in Syria. That is something Russia has asked for, for over a year, and it now suddenly seems to happen.

[...]

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A number of other news/websites also jumped into the tangle, no small part of which was created by quick trigger fingers on the Tweet button. (I recall Assad once saying that the Syrian War was the first war fought on social media.) The Daily Beast tried to untangle the tangle, only making things more tangled with this observation:
Of course, that depends on your definition of “coalition.” Turkey has allowed the U.S.-led coalition to use its Incirlik air base, but Turkish air strikes in northern Syria do not fall under the coalition’s command structure. They are Turkish missions with Turkish objectives.
Read the rest of the Beast's report for more insights on how the confusion initially got underway. 

All things told (at this moment), I think the better part of wisdom for the Russian MoD was to have factored in that Gen. Mattis is still settling into his office at the Pentagon. I can only try to imagine his reaction when he learned of the MoD's announcement, which suggests a complete reversal of US military policy on Syria.

So I think everybody should just take a deep breath, and I apply the advice to myself as well.  

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