Just now the United States military, via a press release from Operation Inherit Resolve, the coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), confirmed that it shot down a Russian made SU-22 flown by the Syrian Air Force with a F/A-18E, both manned aircrafts. The first air-to-air incursion the United States has seen in a very long time. It was action taken in defense of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a mostly Kurdish proxy force backed by the United States to dislodge and defeat ISIS in Syria.
The American forces tried to contact the Syrian forces by way of the Russians for over an our before interceding on the behalf of the SDF who suffered several wounded and were forced out of Ja’Din. This is the 4th time the US has engaged Iranian-backed forces in just a few weeks. Claims of US-backed forces and US soldiers themselves being encircled have been swirling for weeks and now Iran claims to have fired a missile at Deir ez Zor, Syria in retaliation for the ISIS attacks on their parliament that can theoretically also target the surrounded forces at al-Tanf and the Waleed border crossing. The missile is an obsolete Russian design that can be defended against.
All this comes on the heels of Iran revealing its desperate national need for an overland route to Lebanon. The New Yorker wrote this last week
The Iranians have sought to create such a sphere since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, in 1988, which they saw as a Western-backed effort to destroy their regime. That’s why Iranians helped create Hezbollah, the Shiite militia that dominates Lebanon, and trained and directed Shiite militias that attacked American soldiers during their occupation of Iraq. The Iranian push into the Arab Middle East has helped aggravate the Sunni-Shiite schism that is fracturing the region. The attack in Tehran this week by isis militants is emblematic of the enmity with which Sunni militants regard the Iranian regime.
No Iranian trucks or other vehicles have apparently used the route yet, and no Iranian official has spoken publicly about it.
Iran has likely not mentioned its route because it will trigger a preemptive action from Israel who has one of the best air forces in the world. Harassing American efforts to destroy ISIS, inflaming internal politics in Bahrain and Qatar, and aiding its Yemeni Houthi proxies has very much left Iran’s neighbors fed up with the country’s regional meddling. While the missile fired at Deir ez Zor may seem terrifying from the photos, it’s actually low-tech by superpower standards.
— Hadi Nili (@HadiNili) June 18, 2017
Here is the former Iranian Ambassador to Iran championing the narrative of Iranian nationalism.
Missile attacks against ISIS military base in Syria manifested the will and capacity of Iran to fight against terrorism and security threats pic.twitter.com/4e1cjeGlKc
— Hamid Baeidinejad (@baeidinejad) June 18, 2017
These are very poor decisions Iran is making. They are attempting to provoke stronger powers to attack them to justify using low-tech weapons on coalition missile defense systems and civilian areas. In March of this year, the European Union issued a report outlining all the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Iran was sending to Yemen. The sub-header reads: ‘Kamikaze’ drones used by Houthi forces to attack Coalition missile defense systems:
These findings support assertions that Iran continues to provide enhanced military capabilities to Houthi and Saleh-aligned forces.
Containment is a pillar in the conservative principals of foreign policy and conservatives need to start remembering how their greatest hero, Ronald Reagan, spent all 8 years in office trying to contain Iran. Conservative principals only work when conservatives have the fortitude to implement them and congress must clarify what authority the president and the military has at its disposal at the same time sending a message to those in the region who might harm the American efforts in Syria.
Conservative commentator, Noah Rothman, pointed out the need for a Republican congress to act back in April when 59 Tomahawks were fired at a Syrian airbase.
The War Powers Act provides the White House all legal justification needed to pursue the limited action it has taken, but only politics would prevent lawmakers from taking up a more legally sound AUMF targeting the Syrian government.
The escalation from Iran is coming whether the world wants it or not and Congress should act accordingly.