The Syrian regime claims its forces in eastern Syria prevented US forces from transiting an area in northeastern Syria, near Tal Tamr, pro-Iranian media reported. This is a sensitive and important area.
The claims that it has tried to harass US soldiers or set up a checkpoint to “inspect” vehicles is part of a larger attempt by the Syrian regime to normalize relations with Arab countries and confront other forces in Syria. Iran has an interest in trumpeting tensions with the US in Syria, and it wants to encourage the Syrian regime to confront the Americans.
For more than a decade, Syria was divided by civil war. Today, most of the independent rebel groups have been defeated. In northwest Syria, the extremist group HTS controls parts of Idlib and Afrin, with Turkey’s quiet support.
Another Turkish-backed group, called the SNA, also controls parts of Afrin and areas around Jarabulus and Serekaniye. Some of these areas were home to the Kurdish minority before Turkey’s invasion in 2018 and 2019.
In eastern Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) controls a large area that is generally sparsely populated. Along the border with Turkey, there is an element of mixed control by the SDF, the Syrian regime and Russia.
The Syrian regime's consolidation of power
When Turkey invaded in the fall of 2019 and the Trump administration ordered US forces to withdraw from areas such as Kobani, the Russians and the Syrian regime filled the vacuum left by US forces. Later, Iran also made inroads. Iranian-backed militias have carried out almost 80 attacks against US forces in Syria since January 2021.
The Syrian regime has consolidated power over most of the country in the last several years, with backing from Russia and Iran. Russia, Iran and Turkey all oppose the US presence in Syria. Over the last several months, Damascus has also made impressive inroads in the Arab world with high-level meetings and a return to the Arab League.
This means there is pressure on the US to leave Syria.
The Syrian regime, and its Iranian and Russian backers, cannot confront the US directly. They prefer smaller tactics, such as using proxies to fire rockets or creating tensions in eastern Syria.
This is why they have highlighted an incident near Tel Tamr. Tel Tamr is an area where the Christian minority was largely forced to flee Ankara’s 2019 invasion.
The SDF and Ankara-backed groups sometimes exchange fire near Tel Tamr, which makes the area one of tension.
Ankara uses drones to attack the SDF. The US works closely with the SDF against ISIS.