BAGHDAD/DAMASCUS – American forces are returning to the bases they had withdrawn from in recent days in the north and northeast of Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, as US President Donald Trump claimed again he would pull American troops from the war-torn Arab country.
More than 500 US soldiers and military and logistical equipment have arrived at the Qusarki base on the M-4 highway between Tel Tamar and Tel Baidar, within the area between the Iraqi-Qamishli-Aleppo border, over the past three days. For the past five days, Sarin Airport has been witnessing the movement of American aircraft landing and the discharge of cargo planes.
Two convoys belonging to the US forces – including more than 85 vehicles, trucks and vehicles carrying military and logistical equipment – have arrived in Syria via the Al-Walid border crossing on Monday, according to the report. The arrival coincided with an intensive flight of military aircraft over the region, bringing the number of trucks and vehicles that have arrived in the region in four stages since Monday evening to 150.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that the second convoy of 35 US armored vehicles has entered Syrian territory with air cover, amid a report about the entry of another convoy within hours. The deployment comes just days after Trump argued that it was “time to bring our soldiers back home”, a rationale that doesn’t seem to hold up to scrutiny now that the US forces have relocated to war-torn Iraq and then back to Syria.
The Iraqi military has also announced that US forces that crossed into Iraq after pulling out from Syria can only use its territory for transit and do not have permission to stay. As the statement added more uncertainty to a vision of what will actually happen to the troops after their withdrawal from Syria, the Baghdad government stated that it is seeking international help after American forces withdrawing from Syria entered Western Iraq without authorization, and taking legal action against the uninvited presence.
During the recent weeks, 1,000 American forces retreating from northern Syria have walked into Nineveh province in northern Iraq, where they will continue their seemingly endless military presence in the region. It comes after Trump pompously declared it was “time to bring our soldiers back home”. Then, he changed his mind once again and stated that certain troops will stay, supposedly to prevent the Syrian oil fields falling into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, ISIL or Daesh).
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday the United States was indulging in smuggling Syrian oil to other countries. He added that the convoys were guarded by US private military companies and special operations forces and oil extraction equipment had been supplied to the site by leading Western corporations in bypassing all US sanctions.
According to Konashenkov, the contract for transporting oil was executed by the US-controlled company Sadcub set up under the so-called autonomous administration of eastern Syria. Under the defense ministry’s estimates, the cost of one barrel of oil smuggled from Syria is $38, so monthly revenues of such “private business” exceed $30mln.
While Washington claims that the move is in line with its alleged anti-terror campaign in Syria, analysts see it no more than an excuse to impose control over Syria’s oil revenues, reminding that the US was well informed of the hazards of ISIS’ revival when it abandoned the Kurdish militants and paved the ground for Ankara to conduct its long-waited military incursion into northern Syria. Moreover, the United States has a long history of salvation of Takfiri militants, where Syrian government forces and fighters were tightening the noose around the terrorists.
The US and its allies invaded Syria in 2014 under the pretext of fighting terrorism, without any authorization from the Syrian government or a UN mandate. Damascus has repeatedly accused Washington of carrying out an illegal occupation of its sovereign territory. The government has reiterated that any foreign troops in Syria are regarded as an occupying force and the Syrian government has the right to take all the needed measures to confront it.