Israeli Strike on Syrian Troops May be Harbinger of US Bid to Seize Crucial Border Crossing
by Whitney Webb - MintPress News
It appears the U.S. – with Israeli help – is again ‘locked and loaded’ to challenge the Syrian government’s hold on its territory in order to manifest Washington’s long-standing efforts to partition the country and gain control over the majority of its resources.
In a troubling sign that the Syrian conflict is set to deepen, local Syrian media reported on Sunday that the U.S.-led coalition bombed Syrian Arab Army installments, killing several service members and injuring several more. Members of the Iraqi military were also killed in the attack.
The U.S. has officially denied responsibility for the attack, with Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway asserting that the bombing was “not a U.S. or coalition strike.”
However, Syrian military sources reported that the strike was conducted by an unmanned attack drone that came from U.S.-occupied territory in northeastern Syria.
Thus, the only possibilities are that the U.S.-led coalition conducted the attack but has publicly denied responsibility, or that Israel was responsible for the attack and “independently” launched the strike from territory occupied by the U.S.-led coalition.
The latter scenario seems to be the case, considering Iranian forces are near the area that was attacked and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Sunday – the same day as the strike – to attack Iranian forces anywhere they were present within Syria. However, no members of the Iranian military were present at the site of the bombing. If Israel were responsible for the attack, as has been alleged by an anonymous U.S. official who spoke to CNN, it would mark the first time that it had bombed the Deir Ez-Zor governorate.
Yet if Israel was responsible for the attack, as alleged, it attack was likely accomplished with U.S. complicity as it came from U.S. occupied territory nearby. Given that a drone would likely be unable to travel from Israel’s border to near the Syrian-Iraqi border due to the large distance, Israeli responsibility for the attack would likely mean that the drone was launched from the portion of Syria occupied by the United States.
In addition, the attack occurred in a very strategic area of great interest to the U.S. military, close to the city of Abu Kamal, which lies in the Deir Ez-Zor governorate and is the main border crossing between Syria and Iraq. Abu Kamal is currently under Syrian government control but lies close to the area of Syria occupied by the United States, which accounts for 30 percent of Syria’s total land mass and includes the majority of the country’s oil, gas, fresh water, and agricultural resources.
Given the proximity of U.S. forces and the strategic nature of the area, Syrian state media (SANA) and independent analysts have speculated the recent attack may be a sign the U.S. is seeking to further expand the area of Syria it occupies, likely with help from Israel which has long pushed the U.S. to deepen its involvement in the conflict.
Indeed, recent reports indicated that the U.S. has been constructing military bases along the Euphrates river in proximity to Syrian military installments throughout the Deir Ez-Zor region. This would also place the new bases next to major Syrian oil fields under U.S. occupation, such as the Conoco gas plant and the al-Omar and al-Jafra oil fields. Regional reports have claimed that the U.S. military has transferred “a large volume of arms and equipment, including missiles, military vehicles and bridge equipment” to those areas in recent weeks.
U.S. motives suggest greater role in the attack
Despite official denial, the U.S. coalition was likely aware of the attack and involved in planning the alleged Israeli strike for several reasons.
First, Russia warned Syrian forces last month of a likely U.S. assault on their positions in Deir Ez-Zor in the near future, as news broke of new U.S. military installments between the border of U.S.-occupied territory and territory controlled by the Syrian government along the Euphrates River.
Second, the U.S. has recently been threatening to attack Syrian forces in the southeast, as the Syrian Arab Army prepares to launch an offensive to retake the Dara’a governorate in the country’s south from Daesh (ISIS), Al Qaeda, and their affiliates who control the region.
Despite the fact that the region is overrun by groups recognized as terrorist organizations by the United States, the U.S. State Department warned last Friday that any Syrian military offensive in the region that would target these extremist groups would be met with a “decisive response” including military action.
As MintPress reported over the weekend, the U.S. threat has been widely interpreted as a move aimed at protecting ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Interest in taking Abu Kamal from the Syrian government is another reason to believe the U.S. was more involved in the alleged Israeli strike than it has cared to publicly admit. Indeed, Abu Kamal is the only road connection between Syrian territory controlled by the Syrian government and Iraq. More importantly, it is the only border crossing that connects Syrian government-controlled territory with Iran, through Iraq.
A major U.S. goal in its occupation of Syria has been disrupting this land bridge, but continued Syrian government control of Abu Kamal makes this impossible. Were the U.S. to take control of Abu Kamal, it would control Syria’s most important border crossings, as it already controls the Syrian-Jordan border crossing at al-Tanf.
For that reason, the recent reappearance of Daesh (ISIS) in Abu Kamal is significant. Indeed, Daesh launched its largest military offensive in several months in Abu Kamal earlier this month, with 10 suicide bombers helping clear the way for Daesh militants to take over parts of the city. That offensive killed 25 Syrian soldiers and allied fighters, according to monitors. Daesh attacked from the U.S.-occupied zone of Syria, despite the fact that the U.S. has long justified its illegal presence in Syria by claiming that it is fighting the terror group.
However, as Moon of Alabama has noted, the U.S. has taken no action against the terror group from November of last year up until it announced it would “recommence” attacks on the terror group on June 4. The U.S. has not offered a public statement explaining that hiatus. Yet Daesh’s reappearance in Abu Kamal provides a convenient pretext for the U.S. to engage the area in and around the town militarily. The recent bombing of Syrian troops in the area again highlights U.S. interest in targeting the Syrian military presence in the area as opposed to Daesh.
That coincidence is not without historical precedent, however.
Indeed, on many of the past occasions in which the U.S. or one of its allies has bombed the Syrian military, ISIS has launched counterattacks immediately after the strikes – as was the case during the U.S.’ unilateral bombing of Syria this past April, as well as after the U.S. bombing of the Syrian military in September 2016.
The close timings of Daesh counter-attacks following U.S. coalition air strikes suggest close coordination between the groups, something that both the Russian and Syrian militaries as well as defectors from the U.S.-backed proxy in the region – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – have noted in recent years.
If Israel is indeed responsible for Sunday’s bombing, they would have executed the attack with these strategic implications in mind and with the U.S.’ blessing, as the U.S. has a major interest in wresting the city from Syrian control while Israel has no military presence in the area.
Indeed, U.S. interest in taking control of Abu Kamal from Syria is so obvious that it has been openly discussed by some influential American think tanks. For instance, Nicholas Heras, Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), recently tweeted about the possibility of the U.S. gaining control of Abu Kamal were the Syrian government to lose ground to Daesh, adding that such an event would cause the U.S.-occupied zone of Syria to “spread by osmosis.”
CNAS is a hawkish, D.C.-based think tank currently headed by regime-change aficionado Victoria Nuland and Richard Fontaine, former foreign policy advisor to war-loving Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
Harbingers of a major American campaign?
Sunday’s bombing of Syrian and Iraqi military forces, at the very least, suggests that the United States under President Trump is poised to deepen American military involvement in the Syrian conflict. As MintPress has reported many times, the U.S. has long sought to overthrow the Syrian government and is currently seeking to partition Syria through its occupation of the country’s northeast – a long-standing geopolitical goal of the United States and Israel that is vocally supported by prominent members of the Trump administration.
Concerns regarding an imminent escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria have been complemented by warnings from the Russian and Syrian militaries that U.S.-funded groups, such as the White Helmets, are set to stage a “false flag” chemical weapons attack in the portion of the Deir ez-Zor governorate controlled by the U.S. — specifically near the al-Jafra oil field, in which a U.S. military base has been recently established. The deployment of a major U.S. carrier strike-group off the Syrian coast last week further suggests that U.S. military actions in Syria may again be imminent.
As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned in April, it seems the U.S. is “locked and loaded” to challenge the Syrian government’s hold on its territory in order to manifest its long-standing efforts to partition the country and gain control over the majority of its resources.
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