Russia threatened to bomb U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State forces Thursday, even if they are accompanied by U.S. special operators, in the latest of a series of provocations.
Russia claims that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have already fired on nearby special operators twice, leading to the extraordinary threat. The U.S. has grievances of its own after Russia bombed an SDF area with nearby U.S. special operators, also leading to a stern warning from the U.S. that it retained the right of self-defense.
The tensions came to a head during a face-to-face meeting between U.S. and Russian military commanders in the region, Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon confirmed at a Pentagon briefing Thursday.
Dillon elaborated that during the discussion they “laid down, you know, maps and graphics to discuss where those deconfliction measures would be put into place so that, one, we don’t inadvertently, you know, fire upon one another; number two, we can stay focused on ISIS; and three, we can continue to maintain support to our forces both from the air — to our forces on the ground, to make sure that they can continue their efforts to defeat ISIS.”
The increasing tensions come as the fight against the terrorist group moves into a strategically important area for the Syrian regime. Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime have increased their operations in Deir Ezzor province, which is both resource rich and located in an important area. The area is important to all actors in the region.
“Russia wants to ensure and enhance its military footprint in the region. Iran wants to strengthen its western-bending arc of influence and logistics that runs through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon,” The Soufan Center noted Friday in its daily intelligence brief. The U.S., however, wants to maintain “control of the region,” which “could provide significant leverage in a hoped-for negotiated resolution to the civil war, once the Islamic State had been militarily beaten down.”
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