U.S. forces set up a new base in Manbij, Syria May 8, 2018. Picture Taken May 8, 2018.
(photo credit: RODI SAID / REUTERS)
The US-led Coalition disputed claims by Syrian sources that there were clashes near Tanf in Syria over the weekend.
On Saturday “unknown forces” fired toward a US-led anti-ISIS Coalition base at Tanf in Syria. The Tanf Garrison “received fire” but “there are no reported damages or injuries, and Coalition forces did not fire back,” according to a statement from the Coalition.
Yet the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday that 8 Iranian-backed forces were killed and 11 injured in a battle in eastern Homs province near the border with Jordan and Iraq. “A column of Iranian Forces and their loyal gunmen of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities
were hit by warplanes that were not known if they belong to the International Coalition, as they pass near al-Tanf area which is controlled by forces of the International Coalition,” the SOHR wrote.
The Tanf base is an anomaly in Syria. It was established in 2016 to train anti-ISIS Syrian fighters. However the base soon became cut off from ISIS-held areas as the Syrian regime surrounded the area and retook the border area with Iraq east of the base, and with Jordan west of the base. So the garrison consists of a 55km radius, a kind of giant half circle, stretching out from where the Jordan-Iraq-Syria borders meet. In this lonely desert outpost are anti-ISIS Syrian fighters and their Coalition trainers and supporters.
In May 2017 when a Syrian regime-backed column advanced toward Tanf, the Coalition struck it with warplanes. In June this year the US shot down a drone near Tanf.
Russia and the Syrian regime
have both pressured the US to leave Tanf. In March, Russia’s official TASS News Agency notes that a Russian diplomat “finds worrisome the activities of the US-led coalition in the area of Syria’s al-Tanf.” Pro-regime social media have sought to accuse US forces at Tanf of harboring extremists, terrorists and being involved in airstrikes
Most recently the Syrian regime allowed ISIS fighters evacuated from Damascus to move to an area between Tanf and Suwayda. Then when the ISIS attacked the Druze area of Suwayda regime supporters blamed the US for “coordinating” with them. Over the last two days the pro-regime sources and Russia-based RT also claimed that US-backed rebels from Tanf sought to attack Palmyra. It was in this context that the SOHR then claimed airstrikes had hit Iranian-backed forces.
The presence of Iranian forces in Syria is opposed by both the US and Israel. Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif was in Syria on Sunday to discuss the upcoming Idlib offensive in northern Syria. The airstrikes near Tanf also came a day after reports of a massive explosion at the Mezzeh military area in Damascus. The Syrian regime claimed the explosion was an electrical fault that blew up ammunition. As with the Tanf incident, the full story remains clouded in mystery and denials.