As gains are made against the Islamic State and other Islamist rebel factions in Syria, the United States appears ready to prevent the Assad regime from making major advances in the eastern half of the country, possibly suggesting plans for a long-term U.S. presence.
In both Syria and Iraq, Iran-backed Shi’ite militias play an active role in the fight against the Islamic State, assisting the Assad government with operations against ISIS and other rebels, and aiding a U.S.-led coalition in efforts to clear ISIS out of Mosul, the group’s Iraqi capital.
On Monday, a Shi’ite militia, part of what is known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMFs, took several Iraqi villages from ISIS near the Syrian border as part of an operation to link up with Assad-allied forces on the Syrian side and secure a vital supply route. It is this key operation which the U.S. apparently seeks to scuttle.
The Damascus-Baghdad highway is one of several important roads the Syrian government seeks to retake and control. Securing a safe route between Iraq and Syria will allow Assad’s Iranian partner a much easier supply line to its militia proxies, and it will facilitate Assad’s planned assault on ISIS-held cities such as Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.
The territory on the Syrian side, just across the border from the recently-liberated Iraqi villages now occupied by the PMFs, is controlled by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds. It is not clear if they would allow the PMFs to cross their territory to link up with Assad’s allies, stationed further southwest in the country, but if the May 18 American bombing of a Syrian-allied tank convoy is any indication, the U.S. will likely insist the Kurds prevent the PMFs from moving further west.
On May 18, as a Shi’ite militia tank column maneuvered 15 miles outside a joint American-British base near the border crossing at al-Tanf, American warplanes bombed the convoy, destroying four or five out of 27 vehicles and killing eight militiamen.
American and British special forces train Free Syrian Army rebels for anti-ISIS operations at the base near al-Tanf; U.S. officials said they were forced to strike after the convoy ignored warnings to turn around. The militia column was taking part in the operation to secure the Damascus-Baghdad highway.
Washington seeks to prevent Iran a supply line into Syria for fear that it will also bolster Hezbollah, Iran’s most prominent militia proxy based in Southern Lebanon, and threaten Israel even after the war in Syria is over. Hezbollah also participates in the Syrian war on behalf of Assad.
“Only thus can a contiguous line of Iranian control from the Iraq-Iran border to the Mediterranean and Israel be prevented,” writes Jonathan Spyer at the Jerusalem Post. “Only thus will the U.S. be able to prevent an eventual outcome in Syria and in Iraq entirely favorable to the Iranians.”
Indeed, this illustrative quote points to America’s role in the Syrian war all along, to knock Iran down a peg on behalf of Saudi and Israel, our
masters loyal allies.
However, that raises the question: how long will the U.S. have to stay involved in Syria if it is to deprive Iran its supply route? Eventually ISIS will be pushed out of its urban centers of power, turn back into a typical insurgency and complete control of the country will return to Syria’s sovereign government.
Is the U.S. preparing for a long-term occupation of the Syrian desert, or will Kurdish or other proxies be used for the same purpose?
If nothing else, long-term U.S. military presence in Syria will prolong the country’s terrorism problem – effectively creating a magnet for attacks – but, more importantly, it will without doubt represent a perpetual source of consternation for the Syrian government and its Iranian ally. Conflict is a sure outcome.
America may have a window of opportunity to extricate itself from the messes in Iraq and Syria once the Islamic State is kicked out of major cities such as Mosul, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. Unfortunately, U.S. officials appear to be looking for reasons to stick around.
[This article was originally published at The Daily Sheeple.]