'Russia called Pentagon to report Syrian strike gone awry, but nobody took the call'

A F/A-18E/F Super Hornets of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VFA-211) © Hamad I Mohammed
The Russians for some time now have been asking the US to give preplanned coordinates of where they plan to carry out strikes in Syria. Unfortunately, the US has turned them down each time, Michael Maloof, former Pentagon official, told RT.

The US Air Force says that coalition planes would have continued strikes on Syrian Forces in the city of Deir ez-Zor if not for a call from the Russian Military, according to the results of an investigation regarding the tragedy that killed 62 Syrian soldiers injured over 100.

The investigation also revealed that Coalition forces ended the strikes “immediately upon hearing through a US-Russia safety de-confliction hotline that regime forces were being struck.” 

“There must have been a breakdown in communication at the certain point between Moscow and Washington - probably due to the fact that the Americans have been heavily engaged in the election campaign, because of the fast changes on the ground that have been taking place in recent weeks and months… There is the possibility of the Americans not being genuine in their will to cooperate with Russia and other forces on the ground fighting terrorists in Syria and Iraq” - Nidal Kabalan, last Syrian ambassador to Turkey, to RT.

RT: We heard that Russia's call was on hold for almost half an hour. How is this possible, while talking about a military hotline? 

Michael Maloof: There should have been someone at the hotline and ready to take that call. I think this is going to be one of the things that the Pentagon is going to look at as to why it wasn’t manned. I think there will be some adjustments made as a consequence. The Russians for some time now have been asking the US to give preplanned coordinates of where they plan to strike. Unfortunately, the US has turned them down each time. In this case they gave the wrong coordinates.

I am a little concern as to where they got the coordinates from. Even though the report remains classified, I would suspect - and again this is just my opinion - that the classified portion of that report basically was telling them that the information came from someone from one of the various groups the US has been supporting, and took it at face value. One of those groups clearly has it out against the government and may have purposely given those coordinates. Again, that is just my opinion.

We just don’t have people on the ground who can laser in those airstrikes that close, and they are having to rely on allies and in this case it was misinformation, or it could even have been disinformation in this case. But the report remains classified, and we will never know. 

RT: The Coalition report also noted that it was almost impossible to say if troops on the ground were government forces or ISIS terrorists, as they “were not wearing recognizable military uniforms and unit markings.” Is it even possible to spot this kind of detail from the air? 

MM: Well, if the attack took place at night, it might be very difficult to distinguish. You also got to keep in mind too that forces were moving rather rapidly. It is my understanding that ISIS forces were being repelled by the Syrian military when the strikes occurred, which gives me the hint, at least, that someone on the ground gave those coordinates to the US military to strike the position purposely of the Syrian military... It is just too convenient. 

“The incident that took place a few months ago in Deir ez-Zor was a flagrant violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law when the Americans and their allies attacked blatantly Syrian army forces that have been fighting ISIS and other Islamic fanatics and terrorists from over 83 countries… for the past four years.” - Nidal Kabalan, to RT

We could have launched drones, or what have you, that could have had infrared to tell the difference. But there was no coordination, no communication, certainly not with Syrian forces. And there should have been constant communication with the Russians – that did not occur. As the report points out, they weren’t even available on the US hotline for 27 minutes. 

RT: Do you think somebody will be held accountable for what happened there? 

MM: I think there will be some talking around and trying to make sure that the hotline is manned – just like at  Kunduz, there were some changes made, even though it was in Afghanistan, when that hospital was bombed. Some people were reprimanded because they relied upon people on the ground who were not US forces. Those airstrikes, if you recall, came in right on the hospital because of Taliban there. It was to the Afghan military’s advantage to have that hospital taken out because they claim there was some resistance there. We’ll never know. But I think there is going to be an examination of what happened here. The US has got to be able to open up with Russian authorities actually coordinating prior to the strikes, so that we don’t have a repeat of this kind of a disaster.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.