If you have been paying attention to the news from the Pentagon and the Kremlin, then it is possible that you don’t have any information that Russia attacked US troops and their allied forces last week in Syria suffering significant casualties. However, both Washington and Moscow have admitted that there was a military incident at the Deir Ezzor American base. It is also quite clear that elements of the Shiite militias and the Syrian regime participated in the assault. Both Washington and Moscow have acknowledged that mercenaries from Russia who served covertly as military contractors participated in the confrontation too.
However, it is quite clear that those very private military contractors had gone rogue and the Kremlin did not have any information about it. When US Defense Secretary James Mattis was brought to task about the whole incident by journalists, he termed the Syrian incident as perplexing. Mattis said that he didn’t have a clue why the Russians would level an attack against them because they already had information that American soldiers were in the Kurdish military base. The Secretary of Defense added that Washington had knowledge of elements in the sophisticated battle space and the Russian government did not have such information from their intelligence community.
It is quite clear also that Secretary Mattis is an extremely smart man having served the United States in uniform and retired a four-star general from the Marine Corps. He has taken the Syrian issue with a high degree of perplexity in what Plato would call a noble lie. A noble lie is when a leader tells gives false information so that the greater social good can be achieved. It is obvious that Mattis could risk fuelling an escalation in the Syrian conflict if he admitted that the Russian government authorized a direct attack on a Kurdish base with the presence of US special operations advisors using non-uniformed secret private military contractors.
Mattis knows that it is best to express confusion about the whole issue and give President Putin a window to maintain deniability or any form of culpability. Despite the high number of deaths suffered by Russian military contractors, president Putin eventually denied claims that Russian nationals had been killed by a US aerial attack. However, there is a lot of evidence showing that Russian private military contractors had been working with instructions from Moscow and their personnel had knowledge that there were American soldiers in Deir Ezzor military base.