Russia has warned the US that the SAA and Russian Air Force are ready and prepared to attack US backed terrorist forces at Tanf just last week, even if US forces are present. The US responded in recent days by increasing the number of US forces there from dozens up to several hundred.
Russia has not backed off its warning, and it is acting within international law at the invitation of the Syrian government. The US is occupying a relatively small area within Syria from which it protects the remaining Al Qaeda and ISIS groups in southern Syria. Now things are coming to a boil as the Idlib stand-off intensifies.
It is likely that the US will resume a more hostile stance or attempt some large, headline grabbing, maneuver after Hurricane Florence. The damage of the Hurricane and the reluctance of Republican politicians to deploy adequate social services and public dollars to help, house, relocate, and assist hurricane victims will add to the pressure on Trump to ‘wag the dog’, and make a bold and dangerous move in Syria. Democrats will use ‘racism’ accusations and the image of Trump as a pro-business miser, to rally domestic support for fresh congressional pressure on Trump. This will co-align with the #NeverTrump congressional Republicans.
In an attempt to derail a political solution to Idlib, US marines have held eight days of unprecedented military exercises with Al Qaeda allied ‘FSA’ forces known also as Maghawir al Thawra, in southern Syria.
Colonel Sean Ryan, a US military spokesman, described the drills as “a show of force,” saying that the Pentagon had notified Russia through “deconfliction” channels to prevent “miscommunication or escalate tension”. This sudden increase in activity is meant to send a strong message to Russia, Syria and Iran.
“The exercise was conducted to reinforce our capabilities and ensure we are ready to respond to any threat to our forces within our area of operations,’” he noted.
It should also be noted that this ‘area of operations’ is an illegal occupation, created in 2016 in response to the invitation by the Syrian government for Russia to begin an aerial campaign. In what many critics called a simulation, or a battle that did not really take place, ISIS forces were defeated by FSA forces, and the US created a base at Tanf, or al-Tanf. From here, the story goes, the US has been training FSA forces, which are long linked to Al Qaeda as an affiliate group.
The US presence in Tanf military base is internationally recognized as illegal, and lacks the permission of the Syrian government. Damascus, Moscow, and Tehran have repeatedly denounced the American military presence in Syria and called on the US to withdraw its marines from the base. However, the US has so far refused to pull its forces out, and even moved to deploy hundreds of more marines in Tanf earlier this month.
However, the better known Al Qaeda off-shoot, ISIS, is known to have its operations based from and its forces protected by the illegal occupational US base at Tanf.
This was confirmed by Syrian officials.
The eight days of drills ended this week at the US military outpost in Tanf, located 24 km to the west from the al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq in Homs Governorate, said Colonel Muhanad al Talaa, the commander of the US-backed militant group, Maghawir al Thawra. Thawra claimed the drills were meant to send what he described as “a strong message to Russia and Iran” that the Americans and the militants intended to stay and confront any threats to their presence.
He told Reuters the war games were the first such exercises with live-fire air and ground assault, involving hundreds of US troops and militants operating against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The new forces have reportedly joined “special operations troops already based in the garrison” and are going to participate in the drills amid an escalation of US-Russian tensions in Syria and Russia’s military exercises in the Mediterranean.
Russia has warned the Pentagon twice in the past weeks that its forces, together with Syrian troops, were prepared to wage an attack on terrorists in the area where dozens of US troops are stationed – including those in Tanf garrison.
Reacting to Moscow’s warnings, US military officials “bluntly warned Russia and Syria not to go forward with an attack within a 35-mile-wide security zone that the US maintains around Tanf,” Task & Purpose further reported.
The US illegally built the military outpost in early 2016 under the pretext of fighting Daesh terrorists, but it has declared a 55 km-radius “deconfliction zone” off-limits to others, providing a safe haven for at least 50,000 militants and their families in the Rukban camp that lies within it. This includes safe haven for the very same ISIS (Daesh) terrorists which it falsely claims to fight.
All this comes as US President Donald Trump had previously stated that he wanted American troops out of Syria as soon as possible and has also called for redirecting millions of dollars meant to help rebuild Syria to other military projects.
Therefore, we can connect internal US political dramas, ‘#NeverTrump’, or the rhetoric about further investigations and impeachment against the nominally anti-Syrian war US President, to push his authorization for increased activity in Syria.
The Al-Tanf offensive (2016) was an alleged offensive launched by the Free Syrian Army backed by the US against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), aiming to capture the Syrian border post Al-Tanf. In reality, it was a simulated transfer of flags and fighting groups, between two US backed forces, under the pretext of one group beating and liberating it from the other. The US has justified its presence in Syria not on overthrowing Assad or fighting the SAA, but in supporting the so-called FSA against ISIS. In reality, however, the FSA and ISIS work in tandem in many cases – in cases where they do not always work in tandem, it is not functionally different from various warlords or fighting groups within/between ISIS or within/between FSA fighting each other, which is also an occurrence.
On 3 March 2016, the illusory offensive to capture Al-Tanf began. After several hours of staged fighting, made for media consumption, the Syrian rebels ‘captured’ the border post.