The drills of the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) aircraft carrier and its strike group are ognoing in the Mediterranean Sea while militants have triggered another escalation in northwestern Syria by attacking Aleppo city with chemical weapons.
On November 19th, the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) aircraft carrier returned to the Mediterranean Sea, USNI News reported.
The ship had spent the early Fall north of the Arctic Circle, after taking July as a break from deployment. A few days prior to November 19th, the aircraft carrier passed through the Strait of Gibraltar after spending four days in Lisbon, Portugal. The Harry S. Truman was operating in the Mediterranean before returning to Norfolk for a month as a test of the Navy’s new dynamic force employment model.
After returning from the break, the aircraft carrier returned to the US 6th fleet area of operations but spent approximately a month at NATO’s Trident Juncture war games in and around Norway. Reportedly, the aircraft carrier left the exercises early, due to concerns of poor weather conditions.
In the Mediterranean Sea, the Harry S. Truman is joined by other elements of its carrier strike group, including Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Farragut (DDG-99), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG-98) and USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60).
Furthermore, on November 25th, Russian Ministry of Defense’s TV channel Zvezda reported that the Harry S. Truman’s strike group began exercises in the Mediterranean. They are to continue until December 1st.
As specified in the international notification for aviation personnel and navigation warning of seafarers (NOTAM), flights of deck aviation will be conducted in airspace above international waters.
These war games are noteworthy as they happen amid the chemical attack escalation in Aleppo and the seemingly ineffective deconfliction agreement surrounding Idlib.
This all follows an interview of US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey. He blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government for ISIS advent, going as far as saying that it produced the terrorist group.
“The Syrian regime produced ISIS. The elements of ISIS in the hundreds, probably, saw an opportunity in the total breakdown of civil society and of the upsurge of violence as the population rose up against the Assad regime, and the Assad regime, rather than try to negotiate or try to find any kind of solution, unleashed massive violence against its own population. That created a space for ISIS to recruit people; to protect people to some degree, ironic as it sounds, from the depredations of the Assad regime; and very soon, ISIS had an army of 35,000 troops and had seized big chunks of both Iraq and Syria.”
He further elaborated that the US does not desire a regime change. Rather, it desires a change of behavior in the Syrian government and of the state. According to him that wasn’t simply the US view, it was shared.
“That’s the view in a whole series of international agreements related to Syria since 2012, culminating in the resolution of 2254.”
Thus, the US appears to be somewhat re-using the rhetoric toward Iran, in claiming that it does not wish for a regime change, but rather a behavioral change.
Jeffrey also once more repeated the goal of defeating ISIS and that reaching a quick solution would be in “everybody’s interest,” since it would also lead to the supposed withdrawal of Iranian forces from the country, mostly according to Israel’s interest.
“We don’t see why it is in the interest of anyone to have Iranian forces, particularly power projection forces – long-range missiles and other systems that can threaten other countries – present in Syria if we have resolved the underlying conflict.”
Thus, there is a noticeable shift in policy towards a more aggressive stance towards Assad and his government. The US is obviously considering the strong Damascus government as an important ally of Iran in Syria. So, it will work to undermine it and change it if it’s possible.