DOD: Russia Contacted US Before Strikes

Russia on Nov. 17 contacted the US in advance of conducting airstrikes in Syria for the first time since the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in October to keep pilots safe and avoid mid-air collisions. Beginning at 5 a.m. Moscow time on Tuesday, 12 Tu-22M3 long-range bombers targeted ISIS facilities in Raqqa and Dayr az Zaw?r provinces, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Beginning at 9 a.m. Moscow time, Tu-95MS and Tu-160 aircraft launched 34 air-based cruise missiles on additional targets in Aleppo and Idlib. The Russian MOD claims that since it began operations in Syria, it has flown 127 combat sorties aimed at 206 targets. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook reiterated that the US is not cooperating with Russia, but the advanced contact on Tuesday shows that the protocols established between the two countries did work. The move signified a shift by Russia away from constant support of the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar al Assad, which the Pentagon has repeatedly called “counter productive.” “If Russians would like to focus their efforts on ISIL, which is the thrust of our efforts, we would welcome that,” Cook said. “That is a decision that is up to the Russians at this point.” There has been no talk in the Defense Department of further cooperation or coordination with the Russians, he added. (See also US, Russia Test Communications Line and Russian Roulette in Syria.)