Who Approved the Russian Mercenary Attack on American Forces?

Samer Bouidani/DPA via ZUMA

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The Washington Post reports on the source of an attack by Russian mercenaries on US troops a few weeks ago in Syria:

A Russian oligarch believed to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month was in close touch with Kremlin and ­Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault, according to U.S. intelligence reports.

A Russian oligarch? A businessman is commanding mercenary troops in Syria?

In intercepted communications in late January, the oligarch, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official that he had “secured permission” from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a “fast and strong” initiative that would take place in early February….Among his various enterprises, U.S. intelligence believes that Prigozhin also “almost certainly” controls Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad.

….The attack marked the biggest direct challenge to the U.S. military presence in eastern Syria since U.S. Special Operations forces began deploying there in 2015….A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive issue, described the episode as “worrisome.” The official added that “it’s striking how the Russians themselves have been quick to distance themselves” from what he described as an operation “under Syrian command and in response to Syrian directive.”

Very strange. The betting money, of course, says that Prigozhin would never have attacked US troops without a green light from Vladimir Putin himself. But why would Putin approve something that’s both so reckless and so pointless? In the end, all he got were a lot of dead mercenaries.

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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