Spotlight: Eastern Syria under spotlight with main players racing for more gains

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-20 06:21:16|Editor: MJ
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by Hummam Sheikh Ali

DAMASCUS, May 19 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian army is shifting its focus toward securing the triangle of the Jordanian and Iraqi borders in southern Syria as such areas are crucial for the army to cut off the rebel supply lines and secure border areas against the Islamic State (IS) group and other rebel groups, some of which are supported by the Western powers.

But the process is not that easy, as the United States and the British army have bases near the Tanf area on the borders with Iraq.

Washington seems to want the eastern part of Syria to be an area under its sway, and doesn't want the Syrian army to advance in that area, analysts said.

A day earlier, U.S. warplanes struck Syrian pro-regime forces as they were advancing near the Tanf area.

Reports said the strike came to protect British and American soldiers in the country's southeast.

On Friday, the Syrian army confirmed the U.S. strike, saying the U.S. attempt will not terrorize the army from continuing to fight the terrorist groups.

In a statement, the army said the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition attacked one of the military positions near the Tanf area in the Syrian desert near the Iraqi borders on Thursday afternoon, leaving a number of "martyrs and some material losses."

The army described the attack as a "flagrant aggression," adding that it exposes the "false allegations of the coalition about fighting terrorism."

The statement said the U.S. claims that they have warned the forces from advancing before firing are completely rejected.

"The Syrian army is fighting terrorist groups on its ground, and no force has the right to determine the fronts on which the army fight the terrorist groups," the statement said.

It added that "those who claim to be fighting terrorist groups, should not fire at the Syrian army because it's the legitimate force fighting the terrorist groups, but should direct their fire against the terrorist groups."

The statement stressed that the Syrian army will continue the war on the terrorist groups and the U.S. attack will not terrorize the army from continuing the battles on terrorism.

The military statement is a message to the U.S. and its allies that the Syrian army will not agree to the line of influence the U.S. is trying to draw in Syria.

Pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV cited an unnamed senior security Syrian official as saying that there is a Syrian-Iranian-Russian consensus about the need to advance to fight the IS militants in the Syrian Desert, toward the Syrian-Iraqi borders.

The source said that U.S. drones were spotted in the sky, watching the movements of the Syrian army near Tanf, adding that the U.S. asked the Russians to convince the Syrian army to stay 15 km away from the "illegitimate" U.S. bases in Tanf.

The strike was also read by analysts as a message to both the Syrian and Iraqi governments.

On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with visiting Iraq's national security advisor, Faleh al-Fayad, with the two sides vowing to boost cooperation in anti-terrorism war, according to state news agency SANA.

During the meeting, al-Fayad conveyed a message from Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, which included "Iraq's keenness to continue coordinating the efforts with Syria to fight the IS on the Iraqi-Syrian borders," the report said.

Al-Fayad also said eliminating the terrorist group demands "honest" intentions by all concerned countries as terrorism threatens the whole world.

For his part, Assad said that the achievements made by military forces of the two countries in the war against IS constitutes an important step to restore peace and stability to both sides.

For the U.S., the cooperation between the Iranian-backed Assad forces and Iraq's Hashed al-Shabi paramilitary forces doesn't serve the interests of Washington even though both groups are fighting the IS militants in Iraq and Syria.

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 U.S. influence in Syria.

The U.S.-led anti-terror coalition has been backing the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a military operation to defeat IS in Syria's northern city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS.

The SDF is advancing, but Raqqa is not going to be the last battle against IS, as Deir al-Zour province is expected to witness the final battle against IS, as the terror group controls large swathes of territories in that province on the Syrian-Iraqi borders.

Additionally, all the IS commanders and their families fleeing Raqqa are heading toward Deir al-Zour.

So despite the fact that the U.S. wants its influence area to be in that part of the country, the Syrian army is also working toward securing Deir al-Zour and the areas on the Iraqi-Syrian borders, out of its "legitimate" right in the country, particularly that the central part of Deir al-Zour is still under the government control but besieged by IS.

Maher Ihsan, a Syrian political analyst, told Xinhua that the triangle of the Syrian-Iraqi and Jordanian borders in southern Syria will be the focus of active military operations, which will expose the U.S. hidden agendas, as Washington is also working with the Jordanians near Syria's southern province of Daraa to create a buffer zone.

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.

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

The aim of the U.S. is to have those troops advancing from Tanf toward the IS-held city of Bukamal in the countryside of Deir al-Zour, before moving on toward the city itself, he added.