By Daniel McAdams
This week the US has conducted two military strikes against Syrian government-allied military forces as they attempted to engage ISIS in southeastern Syria. The US has set up a military base inside Syrian territory at al-Tanf on the border with Iraq and declared it a "de-confliction" zone. Any Syrian government or government-allied forces entering a 50km buffer zone around the base would be attacked, Washington warned.
Ironically, US Defense Secretary James Mattis claimed that US attacks on Syrian government forces operating against ISIS inside Syria were in "self-defense." But it is the US military that is trespassing on Syrian soil. Imagine an intruder claiming self-defense after shooting a homeowner in his own house! That is how absurd the US argument is.
Mattis is heavily involved in spinning the US presence in Syria near the Iraqi border as a US fight against Iranian proxies. These are "Iranian-directed" forces, he claimed yesterday. The anti-Iran propaganda from government and the mainstream media may fool the American public on this, but in fact these are the same Shia militias who have been fighting on the same side as the US in its siege of Mosul in Iraq. And what are they doing in that part of Syria? Also fighting ISIS. The same ISIS that took "credit" for the deadly terrorist attacks in Iran this week.
What's going on here? The US is desperate to keep the Syrian government forces from hooking up with the Iraqi military to tackle ISIS in its last strongholds, even though such a move would no-doubt make sense if the real goal was to defeat ISIS. Why? Iran. Closer cooperation between Syria and Iraq is seen by Washington to benefit Iran, and the Trump Administration has already made it clear that it is firmly in the Saudi and Israeli anti-Iran camp.
Despite US efforts, Syrian and Iraqi forces are said to have met up northeast of the US "base" at al-Tanf today and are moving to lift the years-long ISIS siege of Deir Ezzor on the road to Raqqa.