United States airstrike in Syria targeted forces directed by Iran: defense secretary

Elias Hubbard
May 21, 2017

He said: "We are not increasing our role in the Syrian civil war".

A day earlier, the US-led coalition struck Syrian forces near Tanf as the forces were advancing toward an area controlled by the US-led rebels, where British and U.S. bases are reportedly located.

The attack Thursday came against the backdrop of a broader geopolitical contest to take control of areas of eastern Syria held by the Islamic State, as well as of the highway from Damascus to Baghdad, which passes through the area where the strike took place.

Prior to launching the strike, the coalition said in a statement it carried out an aerial "show of force", and fired warning shots.

Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with widespread demonstrations against Assad, but has since evolved into a bloody war that has drawn in world powers on all sides.

The army described the attack as a "flagrant aggression", and added that it exposes the "false allegations of the coalition about fighting terrorism". But we will defend our troops'.

Thursday's strike occurred inside an established "deconfliction zone" northwest of the At-Tanf garrison, where British and USA commandos have been training and advising local forces fighting the Islamic State terror group.

Last month, US-led allied forces and Syrian rebels thwarted a significant IS attack on the base. An estimated 10,000 IS fighters uprooted from Mosul are believed to be massing in the border area.

But the pro-Assad convoy of 20 vehicles was deemed to "pose a threat to USA partner forces", and continued to advance across the desert following Russian attempts to stop it.

The officials weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

If these suggestions are confirmed, he said, Syria will need to make certain changes to its military strategy: either to respond to the United States and the coalition with its anti-missile defense systems or transfer parts of its territory to U.S. control and deal with the puppet management of future opposition groups, the senator concluded.

There was no immediate comment from the government or its allies.

He said that the Tanf in particular is so important for the Syrian army, which has reached 40 km from that area, as the army wants to control that border crossing to prevent the advance of the rebels in that area.

"It is illegitimate, it is unlawful and the latest gross violation of the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic", Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said in Cyprus, according to the state-run Russian news agency Tass.

The Hashed al-Shabi is widely-perceived to be backed by Iran, as the Iraqi government is also a Shiite-led one, so Washington doesn't want a Shiite, Iranian influence to cross borders between Iraq and Syria, that's why the borders between Iraq and Syria are becoming the focus of the US influence in Syria.

And in June a year ago, Russian warplanes bombed the outpost, reportedly just one day after British Special Forces had pulled out.

He noted that the US wants to protect around 4,000 rebels it had trained and stationed in Tanf, as the USA and British troops are also backing them in that crossing.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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