Downing of U.S. drone suggests Syria imposing red lines on air war

After allowing the United States to use its air space to bomb Islamic State fighters for six months, the Syrian army appears to have imposed a “red line” by shooting down a U.S. drone over territory of critical importance to Damascus. The U.S. military said it lost contact with one of its drones over Latakia in northwest Syria - part of the western region of Syria where Damascus has been consolidating state control - but has not given the cause of the incident. Two U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the Predator drone was likely shot down, although the investigation continues. Until now, Syria is not known to have fired on U.S. aircraft. The United States says its air strikes are not coordinated with Damascus but Syria says it receives word of them through mutual friends in Iraq.

Our air defence brought it down with a rocket. The plane was American-made, was brought down coming from the sea, and the Syrian air defense was the one that brought it down.

Syrian military source

Damascus has been consolidating its grip over western Syria, including the Mediterranean coast, even as it has lost control over wide areas of the north and east. U.S. officials have not provided word on the drone’s mission, although the fact it was unarmed suggests it was carrying out intelligence collection. Four years into Syria’s civil war, Washington still says President Bashar al-Assad has no future in Syria, despite leading an air campaign against jihadist groups that are his most powerful foes on the ground.